Beauty and the Werewolf is the last of the books in the Five Hundred Kingdoms at present, as well as being one of the shorest reads. It is, of course, every bit as predictable as it seems, to the point where I start asking myself about halfway through why the main character just can’t figure out who the very obvious villain is.
The cover of the book shows a lovely woman wearing a red, hooded cloak next to a howling wolf. And yet, the basis of the story is not one but three of our traditional Western European fairy tales; Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast. The protagonist, Isabella Beauchamps, happens to have a stepmother and stepsisters, but none of the three are anywhere near as detestable as you might fear in the world of the Tradition. She goes to visit Granny, an old wisewoman who lives in the woods and, on her way home, is bitten by a wolf.
This, of course, leads into the Beauty and the Beast portion of the tale (the majority of the book) wherein Bella is confined for three months just in case she too becomes a werewolf. You can’t blame people for taking precautions.
Honestly, there’s not much else to say about this story without giving away major plot points. I remember the first time I read it was a weekend, so I’d picked it up with the intent of spending most of my day reading. Imagine my surprise and shock when I was done in about three hours! I don’t usually time how long it takes me to read a book, but to finish 329 pages in just three hours means that this is wholly fluff, with nothing I have to exert any effort to understand. This is different from reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in about five and a half hours, because in that situation I was captivated and enthralled and refusing to go online until I’d finished the last page. IE, I wanted to read it as fast as I could, but not so fast that I couldn’t keep track of details. When I reread that same book last year, I took my time and thus spent more than five and a half hours on it.
I have to admit, I am excited to have a nice Pile of books to choose from for tomorrow. I haven’t quite decided which one it will be, but I think I’ve made good selections that I won’t regret. Unfortunately, I’m still missing a book one and a book two from unrelated sets, but I’m not desperate enough with either of them to resort to the amazon marketplace yet. It’s far more fun to find the books in person, not to mention that there’s no question about the quality in that case. When you buy it in person, what you see is what you get. With the internet…well…let me show you.
When I was in the process of collecting C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe, I did order some books from online. At that time, I did not go to used bookstores nearly as often as I do now, so it was either amazon or wait several years. So, I ordered myself a copy of Forty Thousand in Gehenna for 1¢, plus $3 shipping. I received the copy on the right.
Now, it just so happened that this package arrived during a convention. One of the conventions I can sleep in my own bed for, they’re so close. Which means that when I was in the dealer’s room the next day and saw a much less damaged copy of the same book for less than my shipping fees…there was no question as to what I was going to do. I bought the better copy, and gave the worse one away to another congoer. As I recall, he insisted on paying me the penny the book had cost. Not that it really mattered one way or the other.
It’s true, I could pay up when I buy books online, get the more expensive ones that are guaranteed to be near-pristine, but frankly, most of the books I buy used are like this: old enough that they shouldn’t cost more than $2 before shipping. As long as the book isn’t falling to pieces, highlighted, or otherwise written in, I’ll generally be okay with it. Frankly, I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with the first copy of Forty Thousand in Gehenna if I hadn’t seen a better one for the right price the next day. Believe me, I do not often buy books twice and it usually is by accident. Other books I’ve intentionally bought twice (for myself) include the Harry Potter series, Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh, and The Dark Hand of Magic by Barbara Hambly. And the second copy of that last book just happened to be in an old omnibus titled The Unschooled Wizard. If I’d found the omnibus first, I never would’ve bought the mass market paperback.
Well, this blog post got a bit off-topic. I suppose I’ll just have to leave you in suspense as to what my next selection will be.