Tag Archives: beauty and the beast retelling

The Rose and the Thorn by Katherine Macdonald

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.

The Rose Gate by Hanna Sandvig

One of my reading missions this year is to discover some indie authors of quality. I love the indie space for many reasons: it’s easier for authors to make a living, authors retain complete creative control over their work, and the author community has a positive, entrepreneurial vibe, rather than the doom-and-gloom of trad pub.

Story quality, however, can be an overlooked issue in the indie space; with the push to rapidly release books (I’m talking 4+ books a year, and sometimes wayyyy more than that), the majority of the indie books I read don’t meet my personal threshold for a quality novel. I totally get why indie authors release like this; readers and store algorithms respond well to rapid release, so there’s a lot of money to be made. When voracious romance fans are breathing down your neck for the next book in a series so they can throw money at you, who can blame an author for getting their book to market as swiftly as possible?

But I’m just not personally a fan of these pulp fiction-type books. No matter how cool a story’s premise, flat characters and weak prose will doom a book for me every time. So that’s why I was so happy to finally get a chance to read Hanna Sandvig’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, The Rose Gate.

Sandvig as an author has been on my radar for a while. (Her author Instagram is to die for, and I’m in the mood for Beauty and the Beast retellings, since I’m writing one myself.) The first in a fairy tale romance series, The Rose Gate follows MC Isobel (otherwise known as Bel–get it?) as she accidentally leaves our modern world for Faerie. Of course, there’s a handsome prince, a curse, and lots of fun flirtation.

This book is a strong first entry in Sandvig’s series. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s voice, world-building, the characters, and especially the budding romance between Bel and her faerie beau. I do think the book could have done with another pass by an editor, as there are some punctuation issues and especially run-on sentences, but these lessened as the book went along, and I didn’t find they hindered my enjoyment.

Can I also talk real quick about the production quality behind this book as well? Sandvig designs her own covers, and the paperback edition is gorgeous, including full-spread illustrations also by the author. I’m so glad I picked up the paperback version!

The Rose Gate was a twenty-four hour read that really swept me up–it was the palate cleanser I desperately needed after the disastrous The Sound of Stars. I will definitely be taking a look at Sandvig’s future work!

Also, comment down below–do you have any recommendations for other books by indie authors? I’m always on the hunt!