Summary:Featuring retellings of favorite fairy tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” and “The Ugly Duckling,” Kendra’s adventures in Beheld are filled with fresh fairy-tale fun from beginning to end.
Since she first beheld James over three hundred years ago, Kendra has tangled with witch hunters and wolves, helped a miller’s daughter spin straw into gold, cowered in London as German bombs fell, and lived through who knows how many shipwrecks.
But her powers have limits, and immortality can be lonely. Kendra isn’t ready to stop searching for the warlock she met centuries ago.
With the help of her magic mirror, Kendra will travel the world to reconnect with her lost love—and, of course, she can’t help but play a hand in a few more stories along the way.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I love Alex Flinn’s books.
They can be quirky, funny, sad, frustrating but mostly they’re just really unique twists on fairytales. This book (like her previous book titled Bewitching) mostly consist of a few different stories narrated by the immortal witch, Kendra. In this case it’s Little Red Riding Hood, Rumplestiltskin, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling. Between these stories, you see Kendra’s struggles over the course of three centuries to reconnect with her lost love James (also immortal).
First, let me talk about Kendra. She first appeared in the book Beastly (one of my all-time favorites) and I immediately loved her character. Beheld is the fourth book she’s appeared in and I only love her more. Yes, she’s a badass witch and completely unapologetic about it, but I think what I like about her most is that she’s also deeply flawed. You see it most in some of the stories in Bewitching but one of the main points throughout these books is that Kendra tries to use her magic to help but magic rarely works the way you want it to. She’s failed- alot. She’s vain and a little impulsive and things don’t always go the way she plans. I just really love seeing a character, especially an immortal one, who’s allowed to have flaws and it’s not the end of the world. No one’s perfect and she’s not trying to be. I was also really excited that after seeing her helping others find happy endings for so long that she finally got her own love story.
Next I’ll talk about each of the stories individually. I can honestly say the first is probably the most unique version of Little Red Riding Hood I’ve ever read. One, it takes place during the Salem Witch Trials. Wait, what? Yeah. Growing up in Massachusetts I’ve heard A LOT about the witch trials but have never seen them tied to a fairy tale. Flinn managed to keep a lot of the historical accuracy while twisting it with Little Red Riding Hood in a way that I thought worked very well.
Rumplestiltskin was always a story that intrigued me though I can’t say this version was my absolute favorite. Don’t get me wrong it was still enjoyable to read, I simply didn’t love all the characters. The prince Cornelia falls in love with pretty much just fit that stereotypical playboy-noble-messing-around-with-farmgirls mold. I liked Cornelia except where it concerned the prince. I mostly just sat here the whole time like “You know he’s a jerk right?”. Rumplestiltskin I DID like. He was sweet and had a cute little backstory that I enjoyed learning about. Overall this story was good but fell fairly close to the original fairytale.
East of the Sun and West of the Moon is one of my favorite fairytales. Maybe because it’s not one I ever heard growing up so it always feels so different to me. I really liked the way Flinn went about this one, tying the setting into World War II. I liked the story and the characters; my only complaint would be that I would’ve liked to have seen more of them as this story seemed a bit shorter than the rest.
Finally we have The Ugly Duckling. I would have been happy with a book just about this one. It’s about Chris and Amanda, two awkward kids who become friends in kindergarten and eventually fall in love. I know, it’s been done a thousand times. Usually I’m really sick of this trope and I was even a little annoyed when I thought that’s where it might be going; until I wasn’t. For once I didn’t feel like I’d read this story before. The characters and their friendship were so fun and unique to me that this ended up being my favorite part of this entire book. It wasn’t just this weird foreshadowing to the romantic side of things, it was an actual, healthy, well-rounded friendship that you get to see evolve over the years.
Overall, this book was an entertaining, quick read that I’d recommend to anyone who likes fairytale retellings or YA in general.
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