The Princess and the Hound
Mette Ivie Harrison
He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he'll rule.
She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.
Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs. Proud, stubborn, bound to marry for the good of their kingdoms, this prince and princess will steal your heart, but will they fall in love?
I was excited for this one because I thought it sounded like a really interesting premise (and, um...I am a sucker for the cover, which is pretty). And though there were things I really enjoyed about it, for the most part I felt a little let down.
It's a little hard to explain because my feelings about it are a little contradictory. I feel like it was well written, but I feel like it wasn't. It often felt passionless to me, though I don't doubt Harrison't passion. There was just some strange disconnect somewhere that kept me from fully committing and loving it. Part of this may have been in Beatrice, who is understandably withdrawn and a bit passionless herself; maybe that transferred over to me.
But it felt like it was more than that. The whole time I was reading, I felt there was an intangible something missing. The bones of the story were there, but I was missing the connective tissue. I was missing the meat. Things would just happen, and I wanted to know how and why, and I wanted to get to have an opinion. I kept wanting to push through, to get to the heart of things or to have more, to see more, to feel more -- there were times that it was just so close that it frustrated me more than if it had been way off the mark. There's a beautiful hauntedness to the story that, had it just gone where I needed it to go, I think I could have really loved this.
As it was, I never hated reading it -- I always fell into the story easily enough, even if it was frustrating. There were some things that bothered me full stop, like Dr Rhuul (slash whatever his other name was), who was a little over the top bad, followed immediately-and-without-transition over the top misunderstood and compliant. He was too obviously a plot device for me to do anything but hate him. But many, if not most, of the other characters I did find intriguing, and thought they peopled the world nicely. I also truly enjoyed the idea of the animal magic, and the tensions and superstitions related to it.
And I liked how things came together in the end, even if it did sometimes feel like a rush-job. The fairy tale full-circle was there and brought everything to a close without too neat a bow -- there are still questions and tensions, and that's good. It wouldn't have been anywhere near believable otherwise. I think there are those that will take issue with the, um...romance in the book. I'm not trying to insinuate something dirty here, I just really don't know what to call it. It is interesting, to say the least, and some people are going to be really bothered by it. I was almost bothered by it (it had the potential to bother me, if it had kept going in the direction it seemed to be going in), but in the tradition of Beauty/Beast tales, it's really not that far out there, and accomplishes it better (and with less ick) than some I've read. In the end, I'd recommend it to diehard fairy tale lovers, and hesitantly to veryone else. And the 'wantingness' issue I had won't keep me from reading Harrison again, though if I see a pattern of it, that will.