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The Princess and the Hound

Prince George could not remember seeing his father without his crown on his head, except perhaps in bed, and even then the imprint on his temples was clear enough. But the crown could have been melted down or stolen away, and it would not have mattered. George could see kingship in every move his father made. 

He is a prince and heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the forbidden animal magic. She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from all except her hound. In this lush and beautifully written fairy-tale romance, a prince, a princess, and two kingdoms are joined in the aftermath of a war. Proud, stubborn, and bound to marry for duty, George and Beatrice will steal your heart—but will they fall in love?”

On the recommended summer reading list of my local library, this YA fairy tale retelling looked really interesting, and so I checked it out. I didn’t end up loving the writing style, but the story itself was pretty good. I liked the two main characters, and how their problems are portrayed. Prince George always had a special bond with his mother (both of them had the animal magic), but when she died, he tried to forget about it all and focus on his duty as a prince, as his father does his role as king. I thought the way that was shown was really moving and sad, how George tries to forget about his communication with animals, to push it down. 

The thing that didn’t make sense to me was the basic opening premise. Why is animal magic considered evil and punishable by burning? After all, in the old legend that the book opens with, the animal magic saved the people from a cruel king who enjoyed torturing animals. Animal magic certainly has its dark side, but I didn’t understand why it was thought to be so bad. Other than that, the story was well told, and I liked George’s conflict with himself. He wants to be a good king, marry for duty, and all of that, but he also wants to do something for others like him who have the animal magic and are unjustly treated. He’s just not sure how to go about it. 

Beatrice, too, has had life even worse than George. Her father is just a horrible man, cruel and disparaging towards women. I felt more sorry for her than George. She’s frequently beaten, and her father insults her at every turn. Beatrice’s only confidant is her hound, and even though she doesn’t seem to have the animal magic, they can kind of understand one another. George dreams about Beatrice’s childhood, and how horribly she was treated by her father and the various women that he married in attempt to gain a male heir. George is unsure, but he knows that he likes Beatrice and wants to help her. 

Still, there were some aspects of the book I didn’t like. The book is advertised as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but it didn’t remind me of the fairytale at all! On the back cover of the paperback, it says, “Beauty and the Beast retold – but the Beast is a woman.” What? Beatrice is not beastly in appearance or personality, although she’s not as feminine as her father would like. She does have a secret, but it’s still not that similar to the Beast. Speaking of which, I did like the secret that Beatrice and her hound shared; it made some sense, though not a whole lot, and was interesting. 

Overall, I think the story of The Princess and the Hound was pretty good with some weak points, and the writing was just so-so. It wasn’t particularly compelling, except for the portrayal of George. The animal magic didn’t really work for me, but I did enjoy this one. The marketing was just kind of misleading, and that annoyed me. I enjoyed the first bit, the second part was a bit odd, and the third part picked up again. 

410 pages. 

Rating: ***

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