Monday, March 3, 2014

Roses by G. R. Mannering

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Publication date: 2013
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Pages: 310
My rating: 2 stars (what does this mean? Look at my FAQs page!)
Ages: 14+

Beauty is despised and feared for her silver skin and violet eyes. When the Magic Cleansing happens in Pervorocco's capital city of Sago, she flees with her only friend, Owaine, to the Hillands, where she helps to train horses. When Owaine returns to their cottage sick and scared after coming across an enchanted castle in the woods and cursed for stealing a red rose, Beauty takes his place. Is the horrific Beast her captive, or her friend? And what is Beauty's destiny?

When I picked up this book to read, I was really excited about having another Beauty and the Beast retelling to read. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all what I was expected, but I soldiered on.

Mannering's prose is well written and cohesive, and I applaud her for trying to create a new version of such a well loved story. If Roses had been written (and publicized) as it's own story, not as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I may have been more accepting of it. As it was, I had a hard time connecting to the world Mannering created and  her characters.

It takes the book nearly 200 pages before getting to the story that I was expecting from the beginning. Those first two hundred pages seemed mostly to be setting the scene and introducing characters and the intricacies of the world. Pervorocco and its surroundings was so different from any world that I am familiar with that I found it difficult to connect to it: from the money ("sticks") to the passage of time ("seasons") to the people within it ("magic beings" and "magic bloods"), the first 100 pages left me trying to sort out what it all meant so much that I wasn't immersing myself in the story, and even then I wasn't sure. The 100 pages that focus on the fairytale we know seems routine and predictable. In fact, much of the details reminded me of Robin McKinley's versions of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter.

The story is actually two different stories, and the combination of the two (what I'll call the "social unrest" and the "fairytale") seemed forced, especially in the end. By the time I got to the last ten pages I wondered how everything was going to be resolved, only to have one of Beauty's storyline resolved, with the other left completely open for another book (or two). As it was, I was left unsatisfied when I closed the book.

The writing is good, and plot and world deeply developed. The characters could be a bit more rounded out--I didn't feel a connection to any of them, not even Beauty. I think this novel would be good for those who enjoy more "epic fantasy" stories, not just fairytale re-imaginings.

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