Kendra first beheld James over three hundred years ago. Since then, she’s tangled with witch hunters and wolves, helped a miller’s daughter spin straw into gold, cowered in London as bombs fell, and lived through who knows how many shipwrecks.
Being a powerful witch, she has survived it all. But immortality can be lonely. Kendra isn’t ready to stop searching for the warlock she had met centuries ago. With the help of her magic mirror, Kendra will travel the world to reconnect with her lost love—and, of course, she can’t help but play a hand in a few more stories along the way.
Featuring retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling, Alex Flinn’s latest young adult novel, Beheld, is fresh fairy-tale fun from beginning to end.
A few weeks ago I could have added this to the Top Ten Tuesday list I did: Books I wish had more sorcery.
I received this ARC at New York Comic Con in October. At the time I didn’t know it was part of a series, but the author has said on Goodreads that it can be read independently from the rest of the books. That is somewhat true, but I did feel like I was missing who Kendra was.
I read some reviews on Goodreads, and many were disappointed that this book does not feature Kendra (a bad-ass witch who is a fan favorite) much. Even though I have not read the previous books I have to agree. In three out of the four fairytale retellings she is either a supporting character or a footnote.
The search for her beloved James is a subplot to the subplot. The synopsis on the jacket is so deceiving:
Featuring retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling”
No- it’s the other way around, a retelling of fairytales featuring Kendra and her quest.
So that being established I’ll get to my thoughts on the retellings.
Little Red Riding Hood is set in Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials. This story features Kendra and her magical abilities the most, but I was still disappointed. I get that these are short stories so there isn’t much word count availability, but it was a lame and boring let down. It was a nutshell version of The Crucible, with a slash of Red Riding Hood, and pinch of Kendra falling in love with James. Which, by the way, was so rushed I was not feeling the love and attraction between Kendra and James.
Rumpelstiltskin was actually my favorite retelling. It featured the most magic, on Rum’s part, spinning the straw into gold. That was the most endearing part; when Rum and Cornelia are getting to know each other and are falling in love.
Spoiler: I liked the twist that Rum was a good man and an orphan who had plans to better himself. The twist of claiming her first born is that he marries Cornelia and considers her daughter – fathered by another man- his daughter. I am convinced that two characters in the next story, though their cameos are small, they are the decedents of Rum and Cornelia’s children. They possessed gold objects. While such characters and objects appear in the original tale, I feel there is still a connection. It is not a coincidence.
East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a tale I had never hear of and had to look it up. It being a Norwegian tale makes sense since the antagonist is a troll.
I liked it well enough, but the story is so rushed that the details are eliminated.
Spoiler Alert: When the troll turns to stone the prose is so bland. The description is a few short sentences and so unpoetic.
Kendra had become a random supporting character at this point.
The Ugly Duckling is a story I really enjoyed, but it is so misplaced in this narrative as a whole. By this point Kendra is a footnote that appears towards the end and James is an afterthought in the last few moments. It is also the the story with the least amount of magical events.
Besides that, I really liked it because it had the most developed characters. I enjoyed the friendship between Chris and Amanda. I was rooting for them. They also made me laugh at some moments.
However, the description on the book jacket is false advertising. As endearing and enjoyable some moments were, if you’re looking for a story about Kendra and James and magic, this isn’t it.
2 out of 5 men in the mirror.