Rediscover the Enchantment
A ship bearing the souls of sinful sailors drifts upon a ghostly sea. An abbey looms as the final defense between mortals and ghouls of the underworld. In the stillness of a throne room, statues stand forever frozen in a moment of terror. Monsters and men stalk their prey deep in the jungle’s shadows. A rose blooms in the dead of winter, sheltered in the ruins of an ancient Scottish castle.
And only true love can free the Beast from his prison.
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Five Enchanted Roses is Rooglewood Press's second fairytale collection and features five Beauty and the Beast retelling novellas. A couple weeks ago I reviewed Five Glass Slippers, their first collection.
As you probably all know by now, I’ve been itching to get my hands on this collection since they first announced it. It’s what spawned Burning Thorns into existence, as Burning Thorns was originally a novella I entered into the contest that produced this collection. I feel like I owe Five Enchanted Roses a lot, because without it I would never have been given the spark to write Burning Thorns. So naturally I had to get my hands on this special book as soon as possible.
That came sooner than I expected when I won the prize bundle giveaway celebrating the release of the collection, which included the book and a bunch of other fabulous prizes.
Isn’t it such a beautiful prize pack?
I have to give a shout out to Rooglewood Press and each author of this collection for this wonderful bundle. I adore each and every one of my prizes. They’re so special to me!
I was so excited to start reading. After all, this had five different retellings of my absolute favorite fairytale. And, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. So much talent and creativity was put into every single story and my mind was blown again and again. I loved them ALL.
Esprit de la Rose by Kaycee Browning
Rating: 5 Stars
My goodness. This was the strangest Beauty and the Beast retelling I’ve ever seen. The tale starts us on the high seas in an unnerving storm and sweeps us into a world of sirens and ghost ships. Definitely not your every day B&B retelling. At first I was pulled if to rate this a 4 or 5 stars. See, I’m not an ocean person. I’m terrified of drowning and have no intention of ever getting on a boat. I do like pirates (come on, pirates are awesome), but I’m still always wary over any sort of swashbuckling stories solely for the fact of them being on the sea. I just don’t like water stories. And this whole story was set on the ocean. On a netherworld ocean with a cursed ship full of grotesque looking pirates that is. It very much reminded me of the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie where they’re on the Flying Dutchman and the men are cursed to stay there and work for Davy Jones. I don’t like that movie for those parts alone. It just grosses me out. So when I saw this novella had that vibe I was a little worried. But as I kept reading I ended up falling in love with the tale and decided it deserved every single one of those 5 stars. I wasn’t wild about the icky factor of the cursed men, but other than that this story was an amazing read. And you know what? It ended up being my favorite out of the whole, amazing collection. A huge applause to Kaycee Browning for making a dark, swashbuckling story I loved.
I think what really grabbed me was that there wasn’t a single dull or predictable moment. I never knew what would happen next. There was a strange and interesting surprise on every single page and I just had to know how it would all play out. Kaycee Browning’s beautiful writing style and vivid descriptions pulled me right into the chilling world and cursed ship, and her brave but unpredictable characters grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go (and often had me laughing).
Cecilia, the heroine, kept her wits about her even after finding herself on the ghostly ship full of horrifying cursed men that had no good intentions toward her. I loved how she, even though terrified, kept her head high and wouldn’t let anyone get the best of her, not even the charismatic Captain Pepin. Which brings us to another reason I adored this story: Pepin. Our “beast” is the enigmatic, charming captain of the ghostly crew, full of danger and sarcasm. Really, what more would you want from a ship captain? Though he really was a horrible person, his cocky wit had me laughing through most of the story. I shamefully got caught up in his charms. The dialogue between him and Cecilia was always the best.
This was a story like no other and I loved it. It was creepy and chilling and all around bizarre, but that’s what made it great.
Warning: There were some mature implication of some things that could happen, though they never did, and due to its all around chilling factor I wouldn’t recommend it to a young audience.
Wither by Savannah Jezowski
Rating: 5 Stars
This story, though far different from the last, also has a rather chilling factor to it. Our heroine, Lilybet, finds herself leaving the safety of her village straight into the Netherworld—a land crawling with ghoulish beings. What struck me most about this story was the world itself. It was so different and fascinating, I wanted to spend more time there. I can’t put this world into a category, it almost felt medieval with touches of modern technology and life. And then you have the whole land of the Netherworld which sets it into a completely unique category of its own.
The story itself follows along quite well with the original Beauty and the Beast fairytale. It’s like if you took the B&B story and set it in a chilling world of ghosts and wraiths you’d have Wither. Pretty cool idea, right? It felt like the classic story in a completely unique way, and I loved that about it.
The characters were also endearing. Lilybet was very down to earth. She’s used to taking on the heavy chores for her family, and as a result has grown strong and tough. She’s not exactly your normal damsel in distress, but she’s also not the “has-to-be-one-of-the-boys” type of heroines either. She was sweet and human and could hold her own when she had to. I found her a very refreshing protagonist. While our beast character, Corwin, though a bit temperamental, captured my heart almost immediately. Add in a frisky wolfhound and some invisible people and you’ve got yourself quite the great cast.
What I really loved about this story is how it managed to be somewhat dark, very witty, often humorous, and emotional all at once. It fascinated me, made me laugh, and tugged at my heartstrings. A perfect combination!
Warning: Though this story focused a lot on the characters and not the world, the world was very dark, full of ghosts and things. So take note of that if that’s not your thing. It did have mentions of an Ever Father though and felt allegorical to me. I was okay with how it was handled. Also there was this one scene where SPOILERS a character was sucking the blood out of another character and at first she thought he was drinking her blood but he was actually pulling the poison out of her. It was pretty icky though so do be warned. END SPOILERS
Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt
Rating: 5 Stars
Ah, this story was beautiful. Tucked comfortably in the middle of the collection, Stone Curse provides a bit of a break from the more darker themes while giving us a sweet, but still exciting tale full of originality. This story felt like a fairytale in almost every way. It journeys the reader through an empty castle to a treacherous wood, steps through a calm village and cozy inn, and pulls us right to a ruinous castle covered in thorns. The perfect equation for a fairytale, am I right? The entire fairytale-like setting was one of my favorite parts of the story and I had a hard time leaving the beautiful little world when I came to the end. But the lovely setting is only one of the many great aspects.
This story is completely original and yet still holds to so many important Beauty and the Beast elements. It plops us in the eyes of a lady-in-waiting, Karyna our heroine, right in the middle of the story, and with each page we learn more and more why this castle’s throne room is full of stone people, and why a beastly looking prince roams the empty halls. I found the whole stone curse utterly enthralling. But there’s so much more than just a room full of stone people. Why did the curse turn the prince into a beast instead of stone? How did the curse even happen? These questions and more had me turning one page after another and cheering Karyna on as she bravely tries to put everything right.
Karyna herself was a wonderful protagonist, so sweet and courageous and loving. ALL the characters were completely endearing. Both the Prince Barend (the beast) and another character, Ritter, snagged my heart so hard I’m having withdrawal issues. These characters were just precious, and the friendships made me smile.
Really, the only thing I disliked about this story was that on occasion it felt like the writing ventured a little more into telling than showing. There were also a few little plot threads that kind of never got completely resolved or delved into as deeply as I had hoped. But it is a novella and I completely understand it had to be kept trimmed down to the word limit.
All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful tale. The twists! So many amazing twists. I got ecstatic at each new one revealed. I was literally zooming through the last few chapters I was so excited and intrigued. And the ending. . .perfection. Once I read the last sentence, I let out a sigh of contentment and just had to sit back and soak in all the beauty for a moment before I could return to normal life. I adored this story, I really did.
Warning: Though not as dark as the first two, this still held some creepy themes. There were two different fights that got pretty violent, though nothing was ever described with too much detail. I found it all handled quite well.
Rosara and the Jungle King by Dorian Tsukioka
Rating: 5 Stars
Whoa. This story was something different altogether. It took me on a wild, exciting ride, right from the start. We begin with Rosara hiding in the jungle from a cruel man of her tribe who seeks to make her his wife. Then we meet Tupa. . .a jaguar. . .who can talk. The tribes and jungle was quite a new turn from your usual medieval, fairytale setting. Though not exactly my favorite type of setting, I found it so interesting I got completely pulled in anyway.
What struck me right from the first sentence was Dorian Tsukioka’s seamless writing style. My goodness, the talent! Literally every single sentence was beautiful and smooth. The easy, fast-paced style had me turning pages effortlessly, except when I stopped to just admire the perfectly put together sentences. I found the writing flawless, I really did. Even if I didn’t like the story itself, the writing alone would have probably made me give it 5 stars. (I will warn you though, it’s written in first person, present tense which I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve gotten so used to that style at this point I hardly even noticed myself.) But I LOVED the story. It moves fast, without a dull moment in between, and had my heart beating nervously at each peril. It was so unpredictable I could never guess what danger Rosara would find herself in next. And she found herself in a lot, let me tell you.
Rosara was a great heroine, brave and sacrificial. . .if not a reckless, but that just made her human. Then we have Tupa and ooooh my. I fell in love the moment he opened his mouth and shocked Rosara when he talked, and from there my love only grew stronger. Both the characters were so sacrificial, so willing to do whatever it took to keep the other safe, which caused a lot of trouble for each of them, but left us with an exciting and satisfying ending. I read the whole thing without once getting up. I simply could not put it down. Dorian Tsukioka knows how to weave a tale! Unfortunately, there were a bunch of elements that almost forced me to bump it down to 4 stars, but it was so well written I couldn’t not give it a full 5 stars. But do read through the warnings. . .
Warning: Rosara is from a very brutal tribe where a man usually attains his wives (yes, plural) through, um, assault. That’s just a perfectly normal thing in their tribe. *shudders* SPOILERS There’s a scene where such a thing almost happens but the girl makes it out before it does, and everything is very much implied, never outright said, which I appreciated. END SPOILERS The women are not treated well and there are a few mentions of abuse. But, I will say, the author did a good job handling it and nothing was ever exactly SAID, I think a lot of it would go over some younger readers’ heads. But still, I just wish it hadn’t been there at all. There was also a lot of violence that wasn’t always brushed over. The descriptions could get rather vivid. And, lastly, the characters believed and prayed to spirits of the forest, some spirits we even see. There were a lot of beliefs such as having to give someone a proper burial so their soul doesn’t wander in agony. Things like that. Those parts made me a bit uncomfortable, though the world was so magical and fantasy-esque it felt fictional enough to not completely deter me. But still, I DO NOT recommend this one for a younger audience. The overall themes were just too dark and disturbing. So proceed with caution.
The Wulver’s Rose by Hayden Wand
Rating: 4 Stars
I feel terrible giving this one a 4 stars when all the other stories snagged a 5 from me, but let me assure you, that does not mean this story was any less beautiful than the others. In fact, in the midst of all the dark magic and strange themes, it was a refreshing story to end with. This one was definitely the most mild compared to the wild tales of the others. It had a quiet beauty that I found so appealing.
From the opening of the intriguing prologue, I was pulled in. This story follows the tale of a Scottish family suddenly caught in debt and forced to move to the Highlands in a little cottage. The youngest daughter, Bonnie, blames herself for all their ill-luck, so when her father returns home one day claiming he encountered a legendary beast that demands Bonnie come to his castle, she leaves without hesitation in hopes of redeeming herself.
What I loved about this tale is how closely it followed the original Beauty and the Beast story. It was the closest match yet compared to the others, while still holding its own. I found it so interesting how it was set in Scotland. I LOVE all things Scottish and the like, so a B&B retelling in Scotland piqued my interest the moment I heard about it. It felt Scottish, with the accents and rolling green hills and sheep and livelihood of the characters. One could easily see Hayden Wand did her research.
Unfortunately, the overall plot didn’t wow me. As much as I enjoyed the Scottish setting, the whole first half of the story felt a little too much like a historical fiction more than a fairytale. Which is certainly not a bad thing, I just personally don’t like historical fictions (I know, I know, horrid!). I’m not one much for realistic, historical tales. They bore me. The first section of this tale didn’t feel quite as exciting as the others. BUT once we do get to the Beast’s castle and settle into the Beauty and the Beast-ness of the story, it definitely picks up.
The Beast, in his melancholy, quiet politeness, grabbed my heartstrings and wouldn’t let go. I could feel his pain, and really just wanted to give him a big hug. Bonnie, too. She, as well, is a little quiet and timid, but so willing to do whatever it takes to help her family. I love how this one so deeply delved into family. Instead of the normal spiteful older sisters, Bonnie’s sisters are loving and full of life. And her kindhearted father and brother play key roles in the story to spur Bonnie on her journey.
What really made the story shine was its theme of God’s light. Woven throughout we get glimpses of hope and God’s guidance as Bonnie prays for Him to light her way. I was happy to see this added to the storyline.
Though a little slow at times, this story still captured my heart with its sacrificial characters, beautiful setting, and hopeful themes. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized it didn’t feel like a novella. All the other stories sometimes seemed a little too fast and like I was missing something due to the short word count, but this one really felt like a full story. By the end I felt as if I had been on a long journey with Bonnie, making the ending even more satisfying. Hayden Wand has a gift for putting so much into so few words.
This precious story ends the collection with the message that resonates through all the stories, what Beauty and the Beast really means: Love redeems.
Warning: This was definitely the cleanest and most mild of the five stories. There’s one mention of druids and of course the use of magic, but it was actually portrayed as a very evil thing in this one. SPOILERS At the beginning there’s a fire and someone gets burned END SPOILERS but Hayden Wand handled everything beautifully without ever getting too gory or dark.
This was one amazing collection of Beauty and the Beast tales. The time and effort these five girls put into their stories shone through every page, well deserving a spot in the collection. All the different ways they took a single story and twisted it into their own was fascinating. And the CHARACTERS. I loved all the characters, from every story. Each so unique but so lovable in their own way.
I was rather surprised at how dark the theme of the whole collection was. Five Glass Slippers had a much more lighthearted, family friendly set of stories, as well as a very broad mix. This one, though the stories were very different, still clung together with a specific dark feel, which I think may limit the audience. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 15 or 16 years old, especially Esprit de la Rose, Wither, and Rosara and the Jungle King. With that said, Beauty and the Beast tends to have a far darker feel than something like Cinderella, and I think each story fit the fairytale well. Fairytales, original fairytales that haven’t been Disney-fied, were always meant to be rather dark, and I like them that way. The higher the stakes, the more powerful the message comes across. The darkness in these tales only made the light of redemption woven in their pages glow brighter.
If you’re a fan of fairytale retellings that provide a bit of a shiver but touch the soul with messages of love found even in the darkest places, then the Five Enchanted Roses collection is for you.
I give this whole, wonderful thing a shining. . .
5 out of 5 stars