Thanks for having me again Heather!
What happens when the stories of five different authors are selected for an anthology of Beauty and the Beast retellings? You get the imaginative and exciting Five Enchanted Roses: A Collection of Beauty and the Beast Stories by Kaycee Browning, Savannah Jezowski, Jenelle Schmidt, Dorian Tsukioka, and Hayden Wand. Each of the stories are unique and intense with very different Beauties, Beasts, and settings. Some Beauties are sweet and compassionate while others are tough and temperamental, but all are brave and willing to face the adventure that comes their way. The Beasts, also, are varied in temperament. All are afflicted with a curse of some kind, but they cope with this hardship in different ways. They alternately embrace the curse, deflect the truth with jokes, or nobly accept the results of past decisions and mistakes. In addition, the various settings are quite different from one another. Still, all of the stories are united by their inspiration and by their theme of redemption.
The first retelling in Five Enchanted Roses is Esprit de la Rose by Kaycee Browning. This is a very interesting historical/fantasy story with vengeful mermaids, suffering pirates, a magnetic captain, and a compassionate heroine. Cecilia wants a new life, so she sets sail with her privateer father, hoping to find a home with her respectable aunt in England. However, her father’s greed has summoned the wrath of the Fee who attack his ship and accidently send Cecilia to world where they intended to punish her father. Cecilia finds herself on another ship with inhuman specters who used to be sailors who had crossed the Fee. She alone on the ship is a solid human, and the spectral sailors all believe she is the key to their escape back to the real world. However, in order for them to escape, she must suffer, but Captain Pepin claims to know a solution to all their problems. Following his plan is not easy, though, and Cecily has much more danger and adventure in her future.
The second retelling is Wither by Savannah Jezowski. Bet, the Beauty in this story does not match the typical ideal of a beauty in a fairy tale. She is more gruff and hardworking with a real temper. Her sister, Sookie, is a much more innocent, tender, and traditional beauty, so she is a logical choice for a companion for the hideous and unloved Corwin. However, the world is a dangerous place with Creepers, Ghouls, and other monsters on the prowl, and Bet is not about to let an unknown monster claim her little sister. She marches off to the mysterious Briarstone Abbey to fulfill her father’s debt in her sister’s place. After several harrowing experiences, Corwin realizes Bet may actually be the perfect companion for his dangerous life. Bet, too, begins to realize that rumors may not always be true and that appearances can hide a deeper truth.
In the third tale, Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt, there is more than one hero and more than one Beast. Karyna, a lady-in-waiting, has survived a curse and loyally remains in the castle. On the Princess’ birthday, the court turned to stone, the visiting Prince Barend was transformed into a beast, and the Princess herself disappeared. Karyna’s father is among the stone courtiers, and she narrowly avoided the same fate. Now, after two years, only a handful of servants remain while the country has fallen into turmoil. At last, Karyna realizes that the person who cast the curse must be dwelling in another nearby castle and may be holding the Princess captive there. Boldly, Karyna embarks on a journey to end the curse. Prince Barend fears for her safety but cannot leave the castle without losing his human mind. Meanwhile, another man is seeking to end the curse, and the castor is also suffering. Only when four key characters come together once more can the curse be broken.
While the other stories have a traditional European feel, Rosara and the Jungle King by Dorian Tsukioka stands out with its jungle setting. Rosara, the daughter of a chieftan, loves her jungle home, but her village is brutal. One warrior longs to replace her father as leader, and he can only do this by taking Rosara as his wife. Unfortunately for Rosara, he is a cruel man who already have two wives who bear the marks of his club and violence. She seeks refuge in her beloved jungle where she encounters a regal jaguar named Tupa. Her situation starts to grow more and more desperate, and she seeks the aid of the karawara, jungle spirits who sometimes interfere in the lives of humans but always with a cost.
Finally, the fifth story is a historical retelling called The Wulver’s Rose by Hayden Wand. The story is set in Scotland in the 1600s and 1700s. One of the last witches of the world has cursed Lauchlan, her former brother-in-law, and his daughter to be trapped in the forms of a wulver (half-human, half-wolf) and a rosebush. Nearly a century passes, and her curse will soon result in their complete destruction. At about this time, young Bonnie Alleway’s family suffers some terrible losses, and she blames herself for their suffering. They lose their home and their wealth, and two of her siblings suffer severe after-effects to their health. Her brother urges her to forgive herself as he has forgiven her, but she has trouble. Her family relocates to a tiny cottage in rural Scotland where she begins to sense a dark evil and hears a repeated plea for help. For comfort, she clings to her faith and a simple prayer she learned as a child, and she holds onto both of these after her father plucks a rose and a monster demands her in payment for her father’s mistake. Hoping for redemption, Bonnie meets the wulver’s demand, but she still must discover why God has led her to the beast’s castle as well as whose cries she hears in her nightmares.
All five stories are ingenious, lovely, and well-thought out retellings of the classic tale. I really enjoyed the whole collection!