The beginning of this was exactly what I look for in a fairytale retelling. It was whimsical and enchanting. The story also stayed very true to the original legend. It’s based on the Norwegian folk tale of East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
Basically a prince’s stepmother turns him into a bear because she’s evil and sucks at life. He has to jump through a bunch of hoops to defeat the enchantment. One of those is finding a girl to share his castle for a year. During the day he is a bear, at night, a man (for the sexy times). Only, she’s not allowed to see him when he’s a man so he only comes to her in full darkness. If she catches sight of him, he loses the bargain, the enchantment will be broken, and he’ll be forced to marry his stepmother’s daughter, who looks something like this:
Not only would Bjorn, the prince, have to marry this stunner, but his stepmother would rule the land and bring misery to all. I’m sure you can understand his desperation to avoid that. Enter the worst choice he could have made in whom he chose to live with, Astrid.
People, stubbornness does not always equal strength. Sometimes it equals stupidity, as in the case of this female lead. Obviously her actions are rooted in the original myth and I can’t fault this book for sticking to it. What I did take issue with was her lack of remorse. Bjorn tells her repeatedly that he cannot explain why she can’t see him because of the enchantment. He tells her it would endanger them both, endanger them all. But because she’s stubborn to the point of stupidity she insists on trying to discover the truth.
This is what it led to:
Just replace the panda with something like a polar bear and the truck with all of their enemies and you get the picture. The dumbass lights up a candle that her mother snuck her and lays eyes on him. Of course, everything is now ruined. Okay, that’s fine, it’s in the original myth. What was missing for me was her learning something from it.
“WHAT THE FUCK HAVE I DONE?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN TO HIM? WHY DID I HAVE TO BE SUCH AN ARSEHOLE???”
“Oh, the enchantment is broken? You have to take a troll for a wife? Everyone in your kingdom is now in jeopardy? I’m sure I can find some way to come rescue you.”
This is a popular theme, by the way.
One thing that confused me was the message on the ARC site that I picked this up from. It said something along the lines of this being intended for adult readers. I’m not entirely sure why that is as the sex in this was all the fade to black kind. My perverted little self was disappointed by that after getting my hopes up over that disclaimer. I WAS PROMISED SMUT! GIVE ME THE SMUT!
So, a good retelling in that it kept true to the original story even while greatly building upon it but my irritation with the female lead dragged this down from a 3.5 stars to 2.5.