This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is dark and mysterious.  Calia Thorn lives a miserable existence in a small town at the foot of the Cold King’s mountain. She spends her days taking care of her younger siblings, doing endless hours of chores and trying fruitlessly to please her mean and lazy mother. But when the townspeople choose her to be the newest servant for the Cold King, she suddenly is afraid that she will be going from bad to worse. The Cold King has lived under a curse for over 300 years and is rumored to be an evil, unfeeling monster. Can Calia see beneath the mask and find the true man? Or will she be doomed to a life of servitude forever?

Sissy: I know what you’re thinking. “You’re reviewing another retelling of Beauty and the Beast?” The answer is a succinct YES! and get over it. This blog is not a democracy. It is a benevolent dictatorship!

Bubby: Um. Who, exactly, is the dictator here? I believe there can only be one dictator in a particular regime at a time and everyone else is a minion. . .

Sissy: You are, of course, Bubby! I however am not a peon, but the Dowager Empress. Which means I get all the prizes and none of the responsibility. Give me a pony!

Bubby: Really I wonder what people think when they read our mad ravings. We are actually very normal in real life, readers. Really. I swear. Now back to the story!

Sissy: What’s great about this book is all the horrible people. Calia’s mom is hideous, all the townspeople are despicable and even the Cold King is borderline demonic. It challenges your thoughts about the wrongness of ordering someone to come be your servant when in fact your life is much more comfortable and meaningful and happy in that forced environment.

Bubby: Yes, I found it interesting that all the servants of the Cold King – people who were pitied and despised in town – were actually very happy and pleased with their lot in life. In fact, when Calia “gets” to go home for a visit, it’s just horrible for her and she can’t wait to get back to the King. She thought that being chosen to serve the King would be the worst possible fate. Instead, it is rather wonderful. Hmmm. I wonder how this can be applied to real life? It’s kinda like going to the dentist – horrible in the anticipation but once it’s over and you have lovely clean healthy teeth instead of dentures, you are so happy!

Sissy: So profound, Bubby, I could almost call you Oprah and faint. What do you do with heinous loathsome people? Are they heinous and loathsome out of fear and tradition or are they just rotten to the core? There are some of both in this story. The fact that my visceral reaction to them was so strong and I wanted to go all ninja on them tells you that Amber Jaeger did some good characterization.

Bubby: I think that the Cold King falls into the first category. He’s been cursed and had people fear him for so long that he has forgotten how to act with common human decency and kindness. He’s not intrinsically evil, like the rotten brothers back in the town who abuse any woman they can get their hands on. He’s just out of practice.

Sissy: And in the case of the Cold King, it’s worth it to love him enough that he wants to change. In the case of the stinky town brothers, it’s probably wise to feed them strychnine-laced hush puppies and be done with it! We all have mean people in our lives. We just have to have the foresight to know whether to go with love or strychnine!

Bubby: That point right there is one of my big issues with this book. As much as I love a good romance and a redemption story, I don’t ever want my children to fall in love with someone thinking that love is going to change them into someone nice and wonderful. It can work, but more often it’s a disaster. As Dr. Laura used to say, “A damsel in distress is only ever going to be a distressed damsel.” I also had a hard time with the casually cruel nature of the Cold King. I’m not sure I could ever love someone who locked me in a dungeon “for my own good” or believed that I had inflicted grievous injuries on myself in order to find out my beloved’s secrets. If I come home all beaten to a pulp and I tell my husband that so-and-so did it, he’d better believe me and go whup up on somebody!

Sissy: True on all counts, Bubby. But what is the likelihood of one of your children being forced into servitude by a magically cursed king? If they ever are, it would probably behoove them to get into his good graces, be crowned queen and send me fabulous and lavish gifts. If they fall for a real life person who is casually cruel but sometimes kind, who seems to have emotional and mental disorders, they should be shipped off to boarding school immediately!

Bubby: Correct as usual, Queen Friday. All in all, The Cold King by Amber Jaeger was an interesting and entertaining read with good characters, a lavish setting and a happy ending. Good enough for me! 3 2/3 bubbles.

Sissy: I suppose you can have 2/3 of a bubble if you’re the dictator. I enjoyed this somewhat gritty retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and recommend that you all take a look.  3.5 bubbles from the dowager empress who is in her corner castle suite doing nothing important or responsible.

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