This book marks a first for me! It's the first time I have ever received an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion of the book. I can see how this could get addicting :-)
Five Enchanted Roses is a collection of five retellings of the fairy tale about Beauty and the Beast. It's a follow-up to last year's Five Glass Slippers, which of course revolved around Cinderella instead. I was especially excited to read this because I follow Hayden Wand's blog, Story Girl, and it's always such fun to read something written by a person I've had contact with. But also nerve-wracking in a way, because I'm always a little worried that maybe I won't like what they wrote, and then how am I going to admit that to someone I only tangentially know? However! In this case, I need not have worried, because it turned out that Hayden's story was my favorite of the whole collection.
"Esprit de la Rose" by Kaycee Browning focuses on a young girl accidentally imprisoned on an otherworldy pirate ship. She might be the key to saving some or all of the others trapped there, since she's innocent but they've all been sentenced there for their crimes. It has a really swashbuckly flavor, reminiscent of some of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
"Wither" by Savannah Jezowski has a more traditional fairy tale setting, complete with a crumbling castle. However, the beast is a guardian not just of his castle but of a portal into the underworld, which he struggles to keep closed. The ending surprised me, in a good way.
"The Stone Curse" by Jenelle Schmidt has a beast who is friends already with the girl in question, who knew him before he was transformed. They work together to end the enchantment that has transfigured him into a beast and her father into a statue. This one was very sweet, with an exciting ending.
"Rosara and the Jungle King" by Dorian Tsukioka has a sleek jungle cat instead of a grotesque beast, and his relationship with Rosara is protective and friendly from the first. There's some more adult content in this one, including an attempted rape, one that's written in pretty vague terms, so as to be unsettling but not graphic. I liked the final solution to the beast's "problem" particularly well.
"The Wulver's Rose" by Hayden Wand is my favorite. It's also the most straight-up retelling, which surprises me because the original fairy tale has never been one of my favorites, and I had thoroughly enjoyed the way the other four writers twisted the story into new and different shapes. But Hayden molded both the beast and the beauty into layered, nuanced characters, both sacrificing themselves for their loved ones at different points in the story. The addition of a daughter for the beast added special poignancy, and I found the comparison of two different father-and-daughter relationships so compelling. This is the only story in this collection that brought me to tears, and I think this book would be worth buying for this story alone.
If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for scary images, a non-graphic rape attempt, and dangerous situations. Teens should be fine, but it is not aimed at children.