Title: Beauty and Cruelty
Author: Meredith Katz
Series: – –
Genre: F/F Fantasy
Available: Dec 23rd
Cruelty, once an evil fairy and now working in fast food, comes home one day to find the lazy, drooling King of Cats on her doorstep. Worse, he comes bearing news Cruelty would be happier not hearing: Sleeping Beauty has gotten tired of lying around and is trying to save the world Cruelty left long ago.
Any respectable Archetype knows it’s a waste of time; their chances of survival are much better if they can hide in the human world. But since nobody sent her an invitation to the world-saving, she’s practically obligated to interfere.
Source: ARC from Less Than Three Press via NetGalley
This one is tricky to review because although I liked aspects of this book – the story, Rue’s modern life and changing attitudes, the twists on old fairy tales – I did struggle to maintain my interest at times. Mostly, I think, because of Beauty and Rue’s relationship with her. That just didn’t work too well for me.
Anyway, the good things. Rue is an interesting character, packed with attitude and independence. She’s a bad fairy and she’s not interested in saving anyone but herself. Except even she’s struggling in these modern times. There’s just not enough belief in fairy tales anymore to sustain all the stories, and even she’s feeling the pinch. Which is why she lives in the human world, sustaining herself on a diet of books while working two dead-end jobs as a way to get by. I’m not quite sure why I liked Rue, yet I did. She’s selfish and snarky and not interested in being helpful – and yet, she kind of can’t help herself either. She has to meddle, and returning to the other world to see what Beauty is up to is the ultimate meddling.
I really liked most of the Archetypes encountered in this story. Tom and Tim the Cat were a wonderful mix of arrogance, wisdom and feline disdain, the Sixth son add his own intriguing dimension to the tale, while the story surrounding Odile and Odette was cleverly woven in. I particularly loved everything to do with the Beast, and to be honest I would much rather have read more about what was going on there (or with the swans) than anything to do with Talia/Beauty.
I just found Talia boring. Bossy and boring and her relationship with Rue was all kinds of uncomfortable. It just didn’t work for me. Yes, the two of them have been bound up together in the same story for a very long time, yes, Talia is beautiful and kind and graced with all the gifts, and yes, Rue does come along and help an awful lot, but the dynamic between them was always a little off for me. Even with Rue’s changes they’re still so very, very different that I couldn’t quite buy the romance there. I also didn’t like the way Talia effectively undermines everything Rue has always been. Talia grows in strength while Rue is left floundering, and although I’m all for Sleeping Beauty ending her passive ways, her love for Rue seemed to diminish Rue as a person rather than enhance her. Which meant by the end of the book I was left feeling a little… adrift, I suppose.
Maybe if Rue hadn’t been the only POV character things might have been different, but she was, and so the whole thing left me feeling a touch dissatisfied. Reading Talia’s side of things would have felt more triumphant, since she’s the one who grows stronger and makes positive changes. In truth Rue’s character is the weaker of the two, and although she goes out and achieves things, overall she loses a lot throughout the tale in terms of her sense of self and power and confidence. Maybe that’s why I struggled with this book.
It might also have been nice to have seen more evidence of how the Archetypes were changing the humans’ beliefs. Only two humans play any kind of role in this book (and a third has a slight influence), while the rest are just background sheep that really play no part in anything. I would have liked to have seen some evidence that Talia’s plan was working or at least that there was more to the plan than Bring ’em in. Ship ’em out. Fingers crossed, everyone!
So, yeah. It’s a clever idea, but the story itself never quite caught me as much as I’d expected. Some of the characters are interesting and the side plots are definitely intriguing, but overall it just feels like an okay read.
Beauty and Cruelty is out December 23rd!
Visit Meredith Katz for more details.