Review: The Beast and the Enchantress

The Beast and the Enchantress by Camille Peters is the first book in a new collaborative series of fairy tale retellings called A Villain's Ever After. Each week for the next three months, a new villain-inspired book will be released by a new author, many of whose fairy tale books I have reviewed in the past. The series follows the latest trend in which villains are treated like princesses or heroes who made mistakes or were misunderstood. This trend first gained popularity ten years ago with Gregory Maguire's Wicked in 2011 and its corresponding musical and has grown exponentially in recent pop culture and animation. Though I may not have time to read every book in the Villain's Ever After series, I was fortunate to receive an ARC of The Beast and the Enchantress, which just came out this weekend.

The Beast and the Enchantress by Camille Peters

This is the second adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" I have read by Camille Peters. The story is quite different from Enchantment, so it didn't feel like reading the same book twice. It had more in common with Disney's official reverse retelling, The Beast Within by Serena Valentino, as both books are about witches who cursed a prince for breaking their sister's heart. While Camille Peters' version has a stronger emotional core than its Disney counterpart, it is also more simplistic, which is not necessarily a good thing since the darker elements are one of the things that make "Beauty and the Beast" so appealing. By combining the "beauty" character, who knew nothing about the beast's curse, with the enchantress who cast it, the mystery and intrigue are eliminated from the fairy tale, and it becomes a straightforward love story.

The enchantress in this version of "Beauty and the Beast" is a young woman named Astrid who trains under the tutelage of the royal enchantress, Ivy, to learn how to control magic for the good of the kingdom. When Astrid's sister is rejected by the crown prince, Astrid decides to take revenge by casting a spell on him to make his physical appearance reflect the ugliness in his heart. She immediately regrets it when she realizes the spell affects her to a lesser extent, and she has no idea how to break it. This is the only version I have ever read where the enchantress takes on such a significant role in the story, and for that, I have to give it props for originality. Astrid takes on the role of the "beauty" character from the original fairy tale by casting a disguise spell on herself and pretending to be a different person so she can get to know Prince Gladen and figure out how to break the curse.

The romance in this adaptation is healthier than more traditional versions of "Beauty and the Beast" because Astrid never becomes Gladen's prisoner and is completely in control of her secretly planned meetings with him. She finds him whenever she dons her disguise in places that she knows he is likely to turn up. The downside of this is that their relationship feels less intimate and more rushed because their meetings are so brief, and they never get stuck in a situation where they have to spend time together whether they want to or not. In that respect, the love story was a little hard to swallow at times. I was surprised that someone who was as sick of being courted as Gladen would go out of his way to try to find a girl he had just met when he had been trying to ignore women up until that point. If you can overlook this aspect of the book, it is a sweet story overall.

The Beast and the Enchantress serves as a good introduction for what to expect from the rest of the books in A Villain's Ever After. It is clear that these stories are complete reimaginings of the fairy tales they are based on in which the villains' motivations are altered, and their roles will be combined with the heroes and heroines of the original stories. Though this book lacks the tantalizingly dark elements of the original "Beauty and the Beast," it is a sweet and predictable romance that makes for a pleasantly light read.

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