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Beauty and the Werewolf
by Mercedes Lackey
Luna, $24.95, 329pp
Release Date: October 18, 2011

Another totally charming story from the 500 Kingdoms.  This one was a bit mixed up which also caused confusion for the Tradition.  Bella lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters (who aren’t evil at all) and one day dons a red hooded cloak to visit an old woman she calls Granny and is attacked by a werewolf.  She then finds herself locked up in a castle where the werewolf turns out to be….gasp…a Duke.  So is this “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood” or “Beauty and the Beast?”  But the story isn’t that simple and Bella isn’t a simple woman.  She’s also a wizard.  And with that, she finds common ground with her jailor – the Duke is a wizard as well.

The castle has just three humans – the Duke, his brother and Bella.  All the servants are invisible and, apparently, inhuman.  The Duke doesn’t know how he became a werewolf so the understandable concern is whether Bella will turn into a werewolf as well.  Which is why the King insisted she be locked up until she either proves she’s no danger to anyone or the Duke or Godmother Elena find a cure.

Bella makes the best of her situation; making herself useful as a minor wizard and befriending both the invisible servants and the Duke’s uncouth brother.  She also finds a sympathetic ear in Godmother Elena.  But over all of it is the threat that she might not be able to return home to her life. She also has to worry about the Tradition making choices for her and she isn’t sure that any of the other traditional storylines will suit her.  Her efforts to thwart and confound the Tradition are ….inspired.

These stories are just the best way to have fun from the comfort of a chair.  Ms. Lackey managed to keep me guessing until nearly the end which is no mean feat.  Most writers telegraph the ending and it’s easy to spot the bad guy.  It’s not too late to get involved with this series.  It would be a good idea to read the first book first but after that it doesn’t matter.  This series is not an epic story line. ~~ Catherine Book

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