Jen reviews The Rose and the Claw by Nancy O’Toole, the first book in The Twin Kingdoms Fantasy series.
Huge thank you to Nancy O’Toole for the ARC copy in exchange for a review.
|Series: The Twin Kingdoms #1||Genre: fantasy/fairytale retellings|
|Date of Publishing: August 4, 2021||Trigger Warnings: death, blood, fighting|
|Page count:140||Publisher: Midnight Tide Publishing|
A woman on a mission…
Rose Gardner never thought she’d leave the small town of West Ridge. But when her husband dies at war, she must return his arms to his place of birth to set his spirit to rest. After traveling into enemy territory, Rose falls into a trap. Held captive in an enchanted manor, she finds herself face to face with a beast who is equally horrifying and kind. Will she manage to complete her quest or be pulled in by the secrets of the manor?
A man haunted by his past…
Trapped within his own home and in the body of a hideous beast, Kris never wanted to share his prison with another. As much as Rose may draw him in with her beauty and stubborn strength, he knows she must escape before the next full moon. After all, he remembers all too well what happened to the previous caretaker.
The dead won’t let him forget the blood on his hands.
“For a mad second, I was tempted to follow, ask them what the hell they were doing here. But my time was running short, so I headed straight toward my room. Only when I opened the door, I found myself in the library.
Fear hit me like a fist to the gut, freezing me in place. I let out a curse. Whatever happened in the manor on the night of the full moon, it had already started.
I was in trouble.
The grandfather clock began to chime, and everything in front of me changed. The library shelves were filled with books. Sunlight streamed through the windows, filling the house with a warmth I didn’t know the old place could muster.”
Nothing But Thieves – Impossible
Another day, another night
Stuck in my own head but you pull me out
You pull me out
I could drown myself in someone like you
I could dive so deep I never come out
I thought it was impossible
But you make it possible
It’s a tale as old as time…. sorry, couldn’t resist. Beauty and the Beast happen to be one of my favourite fairy tales and there is nothing I love more than a good retelling that takes some risks by adding new and exciting elements to it.
In the case of The Rose and the Claw, we have the story we know and love, but with some updating to fit in with the current mindsets.
First, our Belle is named Rose, and she’s not some naïve teen girl. She is older and widowed. Her stint in the beast’s manor is not in a trade for her father, or any kind of scenario where the beast is holding her prisoner (neatly sidestepping the whole Stockholm syndrome problem).
Rose is in the village of Farrow, to return her late husband’s arms to his mother- a tradition that lets him move on and be at peace in death. Having to stay in town longer than she had planned, she gets ramrodded into being the caretaker of Rosewood Manor by the villagers. (The villagers have made a pact – if they send a caretaker to Rosewood they no longer need to provide the war with the quota of men required which is a huge help to their small and dwindling population.) This gives her a partner’s in difficulty, kind of relationship with the beast/Kris instead of prisoner/captor.
I really enjoyed this story because it keeps its core but spruces up the story with cool and interesting magic, set in a world that leaves lots of room to expand the universe with other fairy tales. This is probably a good time to mention The Rose and the Claw is the first in a series of tales that work in this world.
I loved Rose. I loved her no-nonsense manner and her attitude of well, this is how it is, so let’s make the best of it. She’s capable, smart and has a kind heart, and I never once doubted she wasn’t strong enough to take care of the manor, deal with the ghosts, the Beast, or the mystery at the heart of the curse.
Kris’s POV was also enjoyable.
Rose meets Kris at his lowest. He’s weak, still changed from the curse (which seems a bit like a werewolf idea but he’s not human during the wan time of the moon), and fearful that he has killed the last caretaker. It’s not an auspicious start to their relationship.
Because the story is in alternating POVs, we get to see a lot of him, and understand his pain and see him opening up his heart to Rose.
The magic is creative and I loved the idea that spells leave a magical by-product. In the case of the Beast, his studies over the years have accumulated by-products to the area. Turning the whole house and grounds into a sort of magical bubble that interacts to some degree with the users.
The shifting house scenes were very cool, along with the scenes of the past that haunted some of the rooms. It gave the whole place such a creepy feeling, but sad at the same time. It was also a really neat way to catch the reader up on the past events.
I enjoyed The Rose and the Claw a lot and sped through it very quickly. Honestly, I would have been happy with a full-size story because it was so good and as a novella, the end felt a little bit rushed. I am very curious to see how later stories will fit into this world.
If you’re a fan of Beauty and the Beast, then you’ll definitely want to add this fun and imaginative retelling to your reading list.