Note: I received an Advanced Reader's e-galley from the publisher for review.
I didn't realize I loved retellings as much as I did until I read the Lunar Chronicles last year, which puts a futuristic spin on classic fairy tales, like Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood. When I was offered a copy of Ensnared by Rita Stradling, described as "a near future retelling of Beauty and the Beast," I was instantly intrigued. Read on for a spoiler-free review!
Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.
Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.
To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.
Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.
[This novel contains adult situations and is only suitable for readers who are 18+]
Ensnared was, by all standards, a light and easy read. We have a spunky heroine who puts her family above all, even risking her own safety to protect her father. Her father specializes in creating high-performing AI in "Rose" models. His latest creation was promised to the master of a high-tech tower, whose motives are completely unknown. Like the description above implies, most of the story takes place in what seems like contemporary... Europe? North America? Not really sure about that, but aside from the high-tech robots that Alainn's family creates, there doesn't seem to be any other indication that we're that far into the future. Which definitely seemed weird- that this ailing family was capable of producing the most advanced robots in the world, yet there was no sign of any other technological advancements. The story relies almost entirely on the cognition of these advanced Rose-model robots, so it almost seemed too convenient that this one guy happens to be the sole maker of the robots, and his daughter happens to be the "Belle" of the story.
I think the story captured many of the elements that made Beauty and the Beast an endearing classical tale. You've got the headstrong woman who gradually thaws the heart of a lonely, reclusive man. Instead of loyal servants trapped as antiques, the recluse has animatronic robots and omnipotent computers that do his bidding.
What Ennsared doesn't seem to have, however, is a moral. From the original classic, we understand that beauty lies beneath the surface and there is nothing wrong with being smart. In this retelling, I don't see those qualities in Alainn that makes her a protagonist you want to root for. I understand nothing of the "beast" in this story- why he's trapped in his tower, and why he eventually falls for the woman that he does. Aside from some steamy R-rated scenes, there's no depth to the relationship and no growth in the main character. Her most appealing characteristic seems to be the fact that she's a human.
I think this story had a lot of potential, and if you love retellings, it's definitely worth a read. Just don't expect it to be too close to the Beauty and the Beast you might be familiar with.
I rate Ensnared3/5 stars !