This year it’s seemed like every other book I’ve read has been a Beauty and the Beast retelling–and that’s hardly an exaggeration of the real numbers. I’ve read seven retellings of the classic fairy tale in 2020 alone, and more last year besides to survey the field as I finish up my own sci-fi retelling.
And somehow this “tale as old as time” never gets old. I once heard an academic say something to the effect of how the basic story concept of Beauty and the Beast is about as close as you can get to an ingrained female myth. That’s a sentiment that’s really stuck with me; I adore the BatB framework, whether that’s the beastly male character who must be tamed or the overall concept of slow-burn romance. I’d even argue that the popularity of vampires with female readers, myself included, taps into that same psychological itch. It is deeply alluring to imagine yourself in the MC’s shoes as a woman powerful enough in her beauty and character to “tame” her beastly love interest.
So I was absolutely delighted when I bought indie author Katherine Macdonald’s book The Rose and the Thorn on a complete whim and unexpectedly dove into one of my favorite reads of the year thus far. This book really caught me–I spent forty-eight hours binge-reading, while I neglected work, chores, and, to my husband’s dismay, an early dinner. (“Just ten more minutes, sheesh!”) There are so many elements here that I love–lyrical language, thoughtful character development, just the right level of description, the perfect amount of whimsy without veering towards the saccharine sweet, and a grounded first-person POV. I was getting Robin McKinley vibes throughout, which should say a lot about this author’s competence; those who loved Beauty will likely have a fun time with this one. A fair warning that anyone who gets annoyed by slow burn might want to steer clear, since this burn is sloooooooooooow… but for me, this was well up my alley.
Isn’t this the wonderful thing about the indie sphere? It feels like in trad publishing nowadays you hear about the same books day in day out. (Sarah J. Maas and Taylor Jenkins Reid, anyone?) With indies, though, there is always that potential to discover a new favorite whom you’ve never heard of. I can absolutely say that I’m now a huge fan of Katherine Macdonald, and I’ll be buying her new retelling of Sleeping Beauty one its day one release August 22nd.