The eldest daughter is often doomed in fairy tales. But Bella— Isabella Beauchamps, daughter of a wealthy merchant—vows to escape the usual pitfalls.
Anxious to avoid the Traditional path, Bella dons a red cloak and ventures into the forbidden forest to consult with “Granny,” the local wisewoman.
But on the way home she’s attacked by a wolf—who turns out to be a cursed nobleman! Secluded in his castle, Bella is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh—when he isn’t howling at the moon.
Breaking spells is never easy. But a determined beauty, a wizard (after all, he’s only an occasional werewolf) and a little godmotherly interference might just be able to bring about a happy ending.…
When I requested Beauty and the Werewolf from the library, I didn’t realize it was part six in the on-going Five Hundred Kingdoms series. I hate to read series out of order, and if I had known this, I probably wouldn’t have requested it. However, it was an impulse request, since I had was really intrigued by the fresh interpretation of the fairy tale characters and storylines. (For example, I love how “Granny” is more of a title for wisewoman, than a grandmother. The same goes for “Fairy Godmother”—very cool take on my expectations from the fairy tales.) I’m glad I did break my usual rule, and read Beauty and the Werewolf, even though it was out of order.
The story itself was well told enough that I never felt like I was missing any important information covered in the previous books, and the background to the Five Hundred Kingdoms was delivered in a natural way that blended seamlessly with the plot.
Bella is a very capable and independent heroine. Her self-absorbed, hypochondriac step-mother, and her light-hearted and benignly superficial step-sisters have no idea that Bella manages them and the household to the extent that she does. She feels that she has her life under control. Then, she is bitten by a wolf while retuning from a visit with the local Granny, who lives in the woods.
Suddenly, she is very much not in control, swept away to Duke Sebastian’s remote castle, and told that she must stay there for the next three months, so it can be determined if she, too, is now a werewolf. To add insult to injury, she also learns that the bookish, unassuming Duke is also the werewolf that bit her.
There were many things I really enjoyed about Beauty and the Werewolf.
I found the concept of Tradition that underpins the series really interesting. This idea is that the people who live in the Five Hundred Kingdoms tend to fall into types: the “Stepmother,” the “Woodsman,” etc., and the Tradition is a force that nudges people to act consistent with their fairytale storylines, often to the detriment of the individual person, since many of these tales end tragically. I thought it added a really original element to character motivations, since those who are aware of the Tradition must fight against it (or at least consciously decide if their decisions are their own) if they want to be truly happy.
There were some really unique characters in Beauty and the Werewolf, especially the servants, who were all magically enchanted and invisible. Yet, they still had distinct personalities, and Bella came up with ingenious ways to interact with them.
Character growth is really important to me in a story, and Bella grows and learns new things about herself though out the book. She sometimes comes off as a bit of a Mary Sue, so self-possessed, and able to do everything perfectly that she tries out. However, there are also some lessons she learns about the downfalls of always thinking she knows what is best—for herself, and for those around her. It was these learning moments that humanized her for me, and made her a likable character.
Unfortunately, it was in the romance, where the story fell short for me. I never really felt the chemistry between her and the hero. For the first two-thirds of the book, he isn’t in enough of the story, in my opinion. Also, compared to Bella’s strong and vibrant personality, and compared to other characters, who are more much more interesting, he sort of fades into the background. Also, when he declares himself to Bella, there just wasn’t enough chemistry between them for me to feel truly invested in their relationship.
However, overall, I really enjoyed Beauty and the Werewolf, and will probably go back and track down the first five installments of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. I’m especially interested in learning Godmother Elena’s story, which is told in the first book of the series, The Fairy Godmother.
3 out of 5.