Review: Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

Thursday, November 17, 2011
Genre: fantasy, fairy-tale retelling
Series: The Five Hundred Kingdoms #6
Pages: 398 (Nook NetGalley edition)
Published: October 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

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 wise woman. 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…

Mercedes Lackey is an author that is evidently growing better and better with age and output. I've read her novels since I first started getting into reading a lot of fantasy as a genre at about age 13, and this most recent foray into her splendid imagination was even better than my first reading experience 11 years ago.  Her fairytale/myth/legend inspired Five Hundred Kingdoms series has a level of fun and whimsy present in every volume that I truly enjoy (a quick mention of "Jenny Pluck Pears" as a nod to our world's "Jimmy Crack Corn" made me laugh within the first three chapters) and wish was present in more novels these days. I just have fun with these books; it's practically impossible not to. They're not perfect, but I often enjoy the experience of reading them more than enough to forgive many issues I might have. I've had a great time with each of the first four in this unique and original world of Godmothers and Tradition (I've yet to read number five, The Sleeping Beauty) and Beauty and the Werewolf was, happily for me, no different. An engaging mix and remix of Red Riding Hood as well as Beauty and the Beast, I sped through this latest magical offering from Ms. Lackey and loved every minute.

Unlike previous novels in this same series, Beauty and the Werewolf is told from the sole, first-person perspective of the heroine, Bella. While I liked the back-and-forth of the first four with the switching POV's from male to female, I relished the chance to really connect to Bella, without interruption from another viewpoint. Due at least partly to this, I liked Bella intensely - she's up there with Andromeda from the #2 novel One Good Knight, as my all-time favorite woman in this series. Unlike the other leads from the series, Bella and her life, are largely ignorant of the Tradition - and I liked the switcheroo from the others. It's a nice refresher on the rules and ideas of this fantasy world after more than a few months away. Lackey doesn't go overboard and drown the reader in an infodump, however, Isabella just learns as she goes. I liked Bella immensely: she's smart, she knows it and she uses it. Yes, an actual heroine with a brain. Much more down-to-earth and "modern-day" for lack of a better term, than her stepsister or stepmother, she's the most "normal" character of the novel. I liked that while Bella is quick-thinking and capable, she's not the most martial of heroines: she is a character that favors brains over brawn anytime. She's a very logical, coolly smart woman who doesn't rush into anything, including relationships. . . leading me to . . 

Duke Sebastian, the werewolf of unknown origin and a minor noble. Quite obviously the love-interest of Bella, I liked his very easy-going manner from the minute he appeared. I actually wouldn't have minded a chapter or two from inside Sebastian's point-of-view - he quickly endeared himself to me, with his bumbling intentions and owlish handsomeness. He's not the most developed character, but I didn't find him to be especially wanting/lacking. Kind, unassuming and shy the dynamic between the Duke and his bite-victim is not the typical situation: Bella is very definitely in charge from the moment they meet. She sets the tone for their interactions for the entire novel, a change I find refreshing from the normal dominate-male and submissive-woman relationship scenario. They don't delve into instalove, instalust, instahate, insta-anything.  Theirs is a believable and compelling mix of justified pique, curiosity, and similar intelligences. There's several interesting contrasts between the two lead characters: both feel alone and long for community but where the Duke is an isolated orphan, Bella feels the same from within the bosom of a loving and mixed family. Their inevitable coupledom, when it does occur, feels ripe and mature for the relationship and the adventures the two embark upon with one another.

Outside of the characters, Mercedes Lackey's humor is a hit for me with this book. I was endlessly amused by the clever hints, allusions and asides inserted into Beauty and the Werewolf. Though Sebastian and Bella themselves kept me amused by their dialogue and deeds, it was winning self-aware bits like, "a Traditional monologue" being mentioned after the villain actually does basically perform a monologue his reasons that made me round this up to a 3.5 out of 5. I had a few minor quibbles, but they fade in face of just how much I enjoyed myself while reading this novel. Lackey also dispenses with more information and details on the world and magic of her Five Hundred Kingdoms. Thanks to Bella's ignorance, the reader finally learns what the point/plan of the Tradition is (a force feeds on emotion, has learned certain paths [myths/stories/legends of that world] will create such emotion, thus The Tradition in an endless loop) - a question I had wanted answers for about four books ago. 

I might have found the villain to be super-obvious from the beginning (I mean, really, there are only about 8 characters in the whole book and Bella, Sebastian, Bella's dad, stepmom, twin sisters count for six of them...) I think a little more effort could have gone into disguising the Big Bad of the novel, but for all that I loved the ending. It was fully action-packed and emotionally fulfilling for Bella. I'd say this is a win for anyone who's read and enjoyed a fantasy tale from Mercedes Lackey. It's simple, easy, but above all, FUN! Beauty and the Werewolf is out and published with hopefully another sequel to follow later in the future.


  1. I've only read one Mercedes Lackey, about a million years ago, but liked it. I really hate the cover of this novel but I've added the series to my TBR based on your review -- they sound like the escapist, silly fun I need now and then!

  2. Yes, that is a godawful cover! The worst one of the series and I have to wonder why they made it so half-assed. Ugh.
    But, yes, do add this series. It's light, frothy fun.


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