Title: Roses by G.R. Mannering
Published: November 2013 by Pony Press
Source: Finished copy provided by publisher
Grade rate: B+
'As the gates clicked shut behind them, she heard the distant roar of a beast.' She bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in a fantasy realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the furthest point of the country. But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life. But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time.
I love fairy tales and one of my favorites is Beauty and the Beast. I’ve read different versions and loved them all, some more than others, thus when I was offered the opportunity to review Roses I grateful accepted it. Roses is more a high fantasy than fairy tale and it was a phenomenal read.
As I said, Roses is a fantasy, as such the world building takes some time and I have to confess of a bit of confusion at times (like they measure time in moon cycles?). The world of the Western Realm is very diverse and a country at war. There is a chiasmic and unfair division of classes in the city of Sago and also a war between “normal” people and Magic Beings and Magic Bloods. People, as it always happen, are afraid of what they don’t understand and revel against it. The world built by Mannering is exquisite in its detail and uniqueness.
The story of Beauty is heartbreaking. She looks very different, with silver skin, white hair, and amethyst eyes and most people are terrified of her. The first years of her life are awful, she is either neglected, ignored, abused or shown like a circus animal. She is mockingly named Beauty after years without even a name. Her only solace are the horses and Owaine Ma Dane’s horse trainer. When the Magic Cleansing starts, Owaine and Beauty flee the city to the Hillands to Owaine’s place of origin.
Here Beauty is also feared, but is more accepted. She finds peace and the love of his new father Owaine. The story intertwines the magical persecution with the story of B&B. The Beast is truly terrifying and more ‘beastly’ and ugly that any I’ve read before. Also, the enchantment was done by a Magic Blood to a general (not a prince) and his soldiers. I really liked Beast and how patience he was with Beauty. I’m also happy that Beauty learned at least some answers about her past, even if everything was snatched quite fast.
The story is slow, it spans from the beginning of Beauty’s life until the ‘end’ of the story of Beauty and the Beast. It is obvious that this is the first book of a series, as the ending was a non-ending, or rather the beginning of Beauty’s involvement in the war. The plot is complicated and the story of B&B is just one of the layers of the intricate fantasy with magical and political undertones. The writing is descriptive and eloquent with minimal dialogue. The part that I enjoyed the most was (as expected) when Beast came into the story (until almost 200 pages!); it felt like an intermission of the real story (like one story within another).
Overall, Roses is a great read. It is not exactly a retelling of B&B, but it seems like a high fantasy built around it. I’m very curious to know where the story line will go next.
About the cover: The cover is much prettier in person. The vine or roses are black and shiny and very appropriate (as is the title) to the story.