I know I’ve talked about my deep and abiding love for Beauty and the Beast, and the various retellings we’ve had over the years. Some of been good. Some have been bad. This is just an incoherent mess.
First, the hero’s name is Erik. The heroine’s name is Kristine. Authors, I beg you. This is not endearing, or clever at this point- this is at least the third book I’ve read that uses the Erik/Christine naming convention, and at least the second Beauty and the Beast book with the Erik/Christine convention. STOP IT. It’s now over-used and simplistic. Just. No. Stop. Please.
Now that I have that out of my system….
So Erik is our beast, and he has been cursed by his dead wife’s mother (who is a witch) because said dead wife died in childbirth, and he should have known that she was too frail and delicate to survive bearing a child. He would slowly, slowly, ever so slowly turn into a beast (because he was rutting beast on the inside, and the outside would match the inside or something IDK) and it would never be broken until the dead wife forgives him, and not before. (Even though she wanted a baby, too, but apparently he was supposed to make the reproductive decisions for her?)
Some time later, Kristine is going to be beheaded for killing her employer (she had been the governess to his children) when he tried to rape her. Erik instead bought her freedom and married her, without talking to her about it or giving her a say in the matter, though her other choice was death, so….
He has her taken to his castle (or manor house) where there’s a handful of servants and he comes to have sex with her every night, but she can’t touch him, because she might notice that he’s deformed on one side (the curse starts on the left and works it’s way over to the right). She has no amusements, no diversions, she is literally there for him to get an heir, because he promised his father, and once he does that, he’ll kill himself. Or just be a beast full time? It’s unclear what his plan is.
She eventually runs him to earth and by virtue of being kind and sweet and good gets him to open up but he’s still got this mask on and she doesn’t know what his deal is, and then he decides they should accept an invitation to a neighbor’s (he has neighbors!) masked ball, because when he’s gone she’ll need to know people. And then she does get pregnant, and the evil witch shows up and offers to trade breaking the curse for the baby.
Kristine says “well…..” because she’s fallen in love with this guy even though there is no substance to him other than “brooding hero” but then there’s no substance to HER other than “sweet and kind and good” so I guess that makes sense. Anyway, Erik is like “NO” and decides to run away from Kristine instead of actually, like, dealing with things. (This happens a bunch of times.)
Eventually, he finds a random pack of werewolves, who have an unmated female in ther number who offers to be his mate after he finishes his transformation. They also find a wizard, who can’t break the evil witch’s spell, but can and will marry Erik’s mother, and even though everyone was hoping that the transformation wouldn’t be complete until after the baby is born, he is fully a beast the day before the birth.
And then Kristine just can’t take it and is willing to trade the kid to have Erik back, and when the evil witch shows up, they meet her in the chapel because she cant do evil magic on consecrated ground. And the ghost of her daughter shows up and forgives Erik and pointedly does not forgive her mother and it is totally unclear a) what Erik actually did in her mind that required forgiveness and b) why the fuck she couldn’t bestir herself to do this years ago. And then this book mercifully ends and it’s just a mess.
First, there is the previously mentioned lack of characterization. These are people of newsprint. They do nothing but react. The evil witch is evil because she is evil. Kristine is kind and sweet and good and also blonde. Erik is brooding. There’s no THERE there.
Second, the world building is just…. A hot mess. It seems that no one is too surprised by the magic and stuff, and of course there is a wizard in the mountains, because what self respecting mountain wouldn’t have a wizard? But there’s no internal logic to how the magic WORKS- the wizard can do pretty much anything, and create matter out of thin air, and transport people and things without a strain, but he can’t do anything about the evil witch because that would break the plot. The evil witch is met in the chapel because she can’t do evil magic, but she finds a way around that by doing a spell that’s not evil, so God doesn’t care, I guess? If you’re going to have magic, you need to think about how it works.
So you have magic, and there’s also society (including a Lord Farthingale, which… if all the noble titles had been named after undergarments, that would have been awesome, but… come on) but no real indication of how things worked. Lords can obviously buy people out of execution, but…. Is there a King or Queen? Is this an English nobility expy? It’s not England, because the mountains are described as way too big, but… I need more forethought. I know I’m spoiled by the world building of Seanan Maguire and Mary Robinette Kowal, but COME ON, at least pretend that there’s something here.
Finally, the plot. The Beauty and the Beast story has a couple of essential building blocks: one party needs to be a beast, whether physically or emotionally, and the other needs to be a beauty, physical or emotional. The beastly party is that way because of something- a curse, a perceived curse, a bad childhood, whatever. Literal magic is not required, but happens. The beastly nature is healed by the love of the beauty. Those are your bare bones. How you flesh it out is what matters. This? This was not fleshed out. People randomly showed up (random werewolves, random wizard) and the rules seemed to be pretty arbitrary (some of the werewolves could change shape. Some couldn’t. Made no sense.) and it was just dull.
I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.