Sunday, January 19, 2014

Review: Roses by G. R. Mannering

Title: Roses

Author: G. R. Mannering

Rating: 3 Stars

After having spent nearly an hour searching for the missing pages somewhere in the middle of my copy of Roses, I am forced to accept defeat. At just over three hundred pages, this is not a hefty volume and, sadly, not a complete one either. Although I enjoyed Mannering's debut immensely, its rushed ending, loose threads, and lingering questions leave quite a bit to be desired. After all, why write a "Beauty & the Beast" re-telling if the elements that make it a "re" telling are abandoned in favor of quickly fulfilling the "telling" aspect of the story? Quite frankly, I do not know.

I'd like to preface this review by apologizing if my voice seems bitter. I am. I am upset and rather irritable at present precisely because I was wholly invested into this tale, but found myself far from satisfied by the end. Roses, for all its flaws, however, is a truly magnificent tale. Set in a realm where magic is feared and those with Magic Blood are slaughtered mercilessly, young Beauty is a fearful enigma from the moment of her birth. With amethyst eyes and silver hair, she is unlike any normal human child and, once given to her aunt, Ma Dane of the House Roses, is kept away for much of her childhood. When, at last, the opportunity presents itself for Beauty - a name given in cruelty, mocking her strange appearance - to leave her home and live among the Hillside people far away, she leaps at the chance to escape and becomes the adopted daughter of Owain, the stable hand of the House Roses. It is from this point on where our tale becomes familiar, winding its way through the close bond that develops between Owain and Beauty, despite the hostility she receives even from the Hillside people, and thus the ill-fated rose that is plucked from a castle and speaks of Owain's demise finally comes into play, leading Beauty to the castle - and curse - of the Beast. 

Where Mannering shines is in her subtle world-building techniques. Roses takes place in a world much like our own world would have appeared, perhaps a hundred to two hundred years ago. And yet, it is also a world of magic. Beauty, whose appearance is shockingly different, is thought to be of Magic Blood all throughout her childhood although her guardian, Ma Dane, denies it. Yet, Beauty's dreams portend the future, as have the dreams of all from the House Roses, and for this reason she must run, fleeing those who wish her dead. While this realm, with its systematic genocide of those with Magic Blood, is dark, it is also incomplete. We come to know very little of the wars fought between those with Magic Blood and those without and, moreover, the scriptures that tell of Beauty's involvement in the struggle are inconsequential as they play a negligible role in this stand-alone. 

Roses takes time to build a fascinating scenario of Beauty, following her from her childhood to adulthood as she is discarded by many, loved by few, and universally feared. And yet, the questions we so desperately seek - where is her mother, who is her father, why haven't they seen her, why is she so important? - are never fully answered. Mannering offers us tidbits of information, presumably to keep readers satisfied, but I was far from sated. Additionally, the unveiling love story between Beauty and Beast is given minimal screen time. While we're given a thorough background into Beauty's life, truly growing to know her from inside and out, Beast is rather two-dimensional, bringing nothing new to this tale. Although his back story and enchantment is slightly different from that present in the original fairy tale, the bulk of his interactions with Beauty are unremarkable. I never felt much for these two as a romantic couple and though I enjoyed their time onscreen, I didn't miss it when it was absent and nor did I crave it for Beauty is an intriguing enough protagonist to keep readers engaged. 

Nevertheless, Beauty's tale practically eclipses that of the original "Beauty & the Beast" story line, which is ironically where this novel falters. Mannering manages to balance both for a time period, but towards the end, she is forced to abandon the plot lines she has created, quickly veering back to finish off the tail end of our re-telling. Thus, I found myself shutting this book with a bang of disappointment. Roses is certainly an entertaining tale, gripping in every way and bringing a well-deserved dose of originality to this tale, but it feels unfinished. Especially as it is a stand-alone, not the first in a new series. While to some readers this novel may feel like a romantic tale, I wished for more grit and flavor. Mannering turned down the opportunity to explore the diverse world she created, leaving her story as a mere re-telling instead of going beyond its scope to the political scheme at hand, the evil sorcerers running about, the importance of powerful amulets, or even the outcome of wars fought. Roses is such an incredible world, brimming of darkness and shadows that promise to keep you up at night, but sadly they are pushed aside. Needless to say, while Roses is, ultimately, the story it is marketed as - a Beauty & the Beast re-telling - I was disappointed that it wasn't the story it could have been. 


  1. I'm sorry this was such a disappointment for you, Keertana. The start of something promising would raise your expectations but without the follow through is a big let down. Great honest review. I do enjoy Beauty and the Beast re-tellings, but maybe I'll pass on this one. :)

  2. Aw, that's too bad, Keertana. This sounded like such a promising retelling, and I was looking forward to it. Funnily enough, a review copy was supposed to come to me awhile back (I didn't even remember that until I saw your review pop up!), but now I don't feel so bad that it never arrived.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  3. Oh, that's such a shame, Keertana. I find that nothing upsets me more than a novel that has all the potential in the world to be extraordinary, but simply settles for being alright. I doubt I'll read this one for that fact, alone. Great honest review though, girl.

  4. Too bad on the end Keertana! I have this one for review as well and was really looking forward to it as I'm a huge fan of all things Beauty and the Beast, but it's so disappointing when an otherwise solid story gets wrapped up absurdly fast. Now that I know it going in though, hopefully it won't be as big of an issue. Thanks for your thoughts on this one!

  5. Shoot! I love B&B retellings and so would have picked this one up in a heartbeat. I'm also an ending girl and I think I would feel the same as you. Still, I do like the way it sounds before the ending and perhaps since I'm not informed that I won't like the ending, it may not have as much of an impact on me. Hm... not sure. Might have to see if the library has it.

    Btw, I totally thought this was another volume of Bees and Mists. The covers look so much the same.

  6. Hmm. I am not quite sure whether I want to read this one now. I've now read reviews by you, Lauren, and Heather and it sounds as though there are certainly elements in this story that I could enjoy. The whole lack-of-an-ending/sidestepping the development of Beauty and the Beast's relationship, though, sounds pretty disappointing. Perhaps the author is intending to return to this story? Or did it end with the spell being reversed as the fairy tale does? It sounds like it's such a strange choice that the author made here; I wonder why she did that. And I'm sorry this didn't work out nearly as well for you as you'd hoped, Keertana!

  7. A well articulated review, K. And I can definitely see your point on this. I agree that some aspects seem incomplete, while other world building elements shine brightly. I think in my head I kept putting this as part of some sort of companion series, but I'm guessing that's not the case. And I agree that the actual romance between beauty and beast isn't my favorite element. But I'm glad that you could also see the strengths of this book. Very thoughtful review.

  8. I don't see myself reading another retelling in the forseeable future. I just don't think I can handle another one after so many disappointments. I never succeeded in finding one that actually works.
    In this case, the original story seems to be more a burden than anything else, which makes me think the author chose to write a retelling because it's fashionable, not because she had a well thought through idea. That makes things much, much worse.
    I'm sorry you were disappointed!

  9. @Amanda: Not to give away spoilers - though, really, it isn't a spoiler - but the book DOES end with the spell being reversed. It's quite abrupt, in fact, as just pages before the protagonist was in a very different scenario with rebels but then BAM she has to run and save Beast. *sigh* If you do decide to pick this up, though, Amanda, I'd be curious to see what you thought!

  10. @Lauren: I think if I had filed information away in my mind thinking that lingering questions would be answered later then I'd have really enjoyed this. Sadly, though, I did a bunch of research trying to find a sequel and was excited at the prospect of reading a stand-alone, so the fact that this felt so incomplete grated on me quite a bit, unfortunately. Still, I hope the author returns to this world, at any rate, maybe with a different fairy tale to answer the lingering questions about the fate of this universe. *fingers crossed*

  11. @Maja: I don't know if I've asked you think before (I probably have!) but have you read Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier or Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay? Both of those are my favorite B&B re-tellings, so perhaps you'll have more luck with them? Either way, this one wasn't a success at all, sadly. :/


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