Looking for a book that has it all? Well you’ve come to the right place-almost (there were no aliens or contemporary billionaires actually). Okay so it just has all the right elements to make it a quirky fairy tale retelling. This Beauty and the Beast retelling was set in a land of fantasy and magic with evil sorcerers and magic, a zombie apocalypse, a beastly Dark Prince, a spoiled yet determined Princess, forbidden romance and a breath-taking grand finale that left me with a tear in my eye (just a little tear amongst all the smiles and laughs- no, I’m not telling why).
Now while this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, it is chalk full of lots of creative extra that made it unpredictable much of the time. Right away, it’s easy to note this since the hero gets an eyeful of the heroine sunbathing in all her glory while she sleeps by the bank of a stream without a care in the world. Prince Stellan, the banished Dark Prince of the Western Wastes and now lord of the decrepit and cursed Vandeborg castle only lives for one thing. He has vowed to protect the Five Kingdoms from the Pestilence his evil sorcerer father has unleashed. The Pestilence is like a disease that attacks the mind and turns the afflicted into mindless yet lethal soldiers who can in turn infect others. Stellan is knocked of track when he views the beautiful golden haired girl sleeping near where he stops to drink from a stream just on the border of the kingdom of Aldebaran. He knows he can only look because no one would ever want anything to do with the likes of him because of his formidable and scary reputation and because he is a hated sorcerer. Aldebaran drove his people out of their kingdom long ago.
Fate takes a hand and Stellan is able to save his fair maiden from a creature infected with the Pestilence and then he rescues a royal duke from the same fate. Stellan is a hero, but looked on with suspicion by the prince and heir when he accepts the invitation to visit from the friendly duke. He is determined to stay away because he is looked on with revulsion by most from the kingdom. It is only when his evil sister reveals his father’s dreadful plans for the Pestilence that he knows he must go back and warn Aldebaran even if it means accepting the duke’s invitation to join the royal wedding festivities at the palace. He is shocked to discover that his blond-haired beauty is the youngest daughter of the king.
Clarysa will never forget the chance encounter with her mystery hero from the woods who slays a monster to save her and she weaves day dreams about him so she is thrilled when she encounters him again. Clarysa lives a boring life in her royal gilded cage so her imagination runs wild when she learns that her hero is the dangerous and forbidding Dark Prince Stellan. Clarysa falls for Stellan quickly and determines that here is the man she wants and she loyally supports his efforts to convince her father and fellow countrymen that Stellan’s warnings of danger are real. No one accept her cousin believes her and Stellan, while as attracted as she is, can’t bring himself to take her seriously either.
So Clarysa determines to do what she can to get her happily ever after with her Prince, Stellan works to save those who refuse to trust his good intentions and all the while evil mounts a strong horrific attack to wipe them all out.
I am going to say up front that this is not a book that can be taken too seriously. This is a fun romp with darker and spicier elements included for good measure. While I found most of the characters were great particularly the dark and tortured Stellan, Clarysa was a bit of a stretch for me. She was meant to be perky and bubbly and determined, but much of the time came across as childishly petulant and naive- not my favorite type of heroine. But hey, Stellan’s whole life was spent under a dark curse and he was lonely so the blasts of Clarysa’s sunshine, love and hope still worked for me because I really was rooting for poor Stellan to finally have some happiness. I really enjoyed many of the side characters including the intriguing villainess of the story. Clarysa’s cousin, Lionel, was a total scene-stealer and cracked me up. He’s smart and funny.
So in the end, this one is for those who can appreciate a spicy, twisty take on a classic fairy tale.