Book Review: Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Book Synopsis

A Near Future Retelling of Beauty and the Beast

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+]

3.5 Stars!

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ensnared by Rita Stradling was a really fun, enjoyable read. Set in a near future when automatons and are commonplace, this Beauty and the Beast retelling is a whirlwind from start to finish. It is a really quick read and I read it in pretty much one sitting.

There were a lot of things I liked about the story, including the wonderful and detailed world building. I could really picture every setting that the characters visited, and within just a few words got a good impression of the intricacies of the tower where most of the story is set. The descriptions of the various halls and rooms, the things that disappear and reappear, are all so vivid that it is easy to immerse yourself in the story and the atmosphere. The descriptions of Alainn’s home and the mountain are also very well done, if perhaps a bit standard, and easy to imagine.

The plot was, in my opinion, the weakest part of the story. While enjoyable, it seemed very superficial, barely reaching below the surface and not containing very many layers or much depth – a fairly basic Beauty and the Beast retelling. I would have liked to see, and think there was definitely room for, a lot more detail in the beginning. There could have been significantly more development leading up to several of the major events, though it did seem to get a bit better as the story progressed. The second half of the book was much, much better developed than the first, and I really did enjoy the twist/reveal that comprised the major conflict in the second half of the story.

The writing was simple and straightforward, as is fairly typical of a YA novel. While this made the story very quick and easy to read, it seemed quite at odds with several events the happened in the book. Namely the very explicit and graphic descriptions of all the sex that Lorcann and Alainn start having about halfway through the story. (Note: I believe the disclaimer posted on Goodreads regarding “adult situations” is a newer addition to the synopsis. The ebook has also gotten a cover update to be a bit more “adult”.) This is a point that I would have liked more lead up to. It seemed like it had just been mentioned that there may be an attraction between them, when all of a sudden they are having non-stop sex. Mind you, this is all while Lorcann thinks that Alainn is still Rose 76GF/Jade – a robot. He seemed awfully willing to accept her half-assed explanations for how she was able to do all the things that humans can do, including orgasm.

As for the characters, they were one of the best parts of the novel. There were so many unique characters, all with different motivations and personalities, most that came out in the latter half of the story (yes, again). One thing they all shared though, was that they were not super complex or deep.

Alainn (Beauty), being the protagonist, was the most well rounded character. It did take some time for me to warm up to and connect with her though. In the beginning, we were very much “told” what Alainn felt, thought, and enjoyed. I really did not care about the fact that she was supposedly an outdoorsy person who could not stand to be trapped indoors until, again, much later in the story when the details of her life began to emerge. I really enjoyed learning about her backstory once it came out, and the events of her past were truly heartbreaking. They really explained why she was how she was and brought her character to life.

Lorcann (Beast), our supposed antagonist, is a very superficial character. He almost exactly mimics the Disney Beast’s actions and emotions, and we never really do learn much more about him and his backstory, except for a very few mentions and memories. I did enjoy his character growth, seeing him change and come alive through the course of the story. And there were times when there was an emotional connection with him, both with the reader and Alainn.

The AIs were the most complex of all the characters, in my opinion. I loved the variety in the non-human characters and really enjoyed learning about them and their histories. You can tell that the author put a lot of thought and research into the AIs and it really comes through. Rose, Rosette, and Rosebud were all so different, though they stemmed from the same initial model. And the monkeys were so cute and fun! They added a fun, whimsical element over having the various household items as in the traditional Beauty and the Beast.

I actually connected with a lot of the side characters a lot faster than I did with Alainn and Lorcann. Greg, Colby, and even Shelly all seemed so much more real and present. They all had their own struggles and motivations, and dealt with conflict, loss, and stress in a variety of ways. Interestingly, most of these characters showed up in the latter half of the book (again), that was much more full and engaging than the beginning.

As several other reviewers have stated, I was disappointed that there was not a library included in this book. Yes, it is mentioned that Alainn has access to any book she could want, but they are all ebooks, not physical.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Ensnared to YA and retelling lovers alike. Although the beginning is rough, I say stick with it. The story picks up significantly in the second half. (In case you didn’t get that from the 100 times I’ve already said that.)

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