Around February, I was given through Netgalley an e-arc of Ensnared by Rita Stradling. So thank you so much Netgalley for this opportunity!
As you can tell from the title, Ensnared is a near-future Beauty and the Beast retelling. Awesome right?! For me, that was literally all that was needed to know, so I went in this book blind and with high hopes.
However, I shouldn’t have gotten so hyped to read this book because I believe that might have affected my experience and overall rating towards the book. Which doesn’t mean that the book wasn’t good, it is! I just feel like I didn’t like it as much as I thought I was going to like it.
I recommend that if after reading this review you feel like reading Ensnared, go in with an open mind and no expectations. Generally I think it is best to go into a book with no or low expectations that way you won’t be disappointed, at least in my opinion.
*synopsis from Goodreads*
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+]
Yes you read that right! This book does have adult scenarios.
I don’t agree with Goodreads that the book is “only suitable for readers who are 18+”, I think that if you are mature or comfortable enough to read books with this type of content then you have every right to. I’m 17 and I’ve read Game of Thrones (loved it) and Fifty Shades of Grey (never again) and it didn’t phase me.
So I think anyone can read it as long as they are mature or comfortable enough to handle this type of situations. I mention comfortable because I know some people that are older than me and still can’t stand watching or reading sex scenes but that doesn’t mean that they are not as mature as someone who isn’t phased by things of that sort.
I just wanted to get that out there and not have readers younger than 18 to feel offended. I know I hate when people tell me not to read a book because it’s too “mature” for me.
For me, I believe that the biggest strength this book had was the main protagonist, Alainn. Alainn is a strong, fierce, sassy, take charge woman. She may not be as smart as her brother or as handy with tools as her father but she is driven and passionate with everything she does. Alainn also carries one of my favorite traits of Belle and that is the need for adventure. She is the type of woman who hates being locked up behind four walls. She constantly has the need to go outside, run around and live life.
As amazing as this character was, Alainn was flawed! Which is the best thing! Alainn would sometimes let her temper get the best of her, she would rush into things without thinking, and she had to constantly be the hero. I really believe that if Alainn wasn’t such a strong character this book wouldn’t have been half as good.
I would like to mention that Lor (“beast”) was very complex as well. But he clearly had paranoia and agoraphobic tendencies that are never addressed. The story ended with Lor not getting help whatsoever, it seemed like it ended with them living happily ever after and love slowly “curing” him. I’m also not sure how to feel about Lor to be honest. Lor is very damaged, dependent, sensitive, sweet, but also has a temper. The best thing about Lor is that he treasures Alainn and you can tell he’s hopelessly in love.
The story started off kind of slow and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. It was also a little confusing. I felt like I was just thrown in the middle and I had to figure out what was going on using the dialogue between characters and Alainn’s thoughts. After being 40% in the story, the story became more fast paced and I wasn’t confused anymore. I was actually really liking the story to the point where I kept telling myself the “one more chapter” lie we all say to each other.
I would say that the story went from PG to Rated R pretty quick and with no inclination of adult situations appearing. I would have liked some hints, like the mention of sex or something because I was completely thrown off. I say this because I was shocked and reading content like that doesn’t bother me, imagine someone who doesn’t. I know a couple of people who would have gotten upset if they read this book *cough my sister cough*.
I loved how the “villain” is established. It was more “I believe I have to do this for the greater good” than “I’m doing this to get revenge/I’m crazy”. An Artificial Intelligence going rogue is always a great plot to read, especially when the reasoning behind genocide resulted in a level of understanding. I also love how since the start of the story the “villain” was pulling the strings.
The biggest issue about the story I had was that I couldn’t fully stand behind Lor and Alainn’s romance. The reason being that Lor believed for most of the book that Alainn was Rose, a robot. Even when the adult scenes happened, Lor believed that Alainn was a robot. A character who has had a traumatic childhood and who has been secluded most of his life attached himself to the only human-like person he had contact with. I believe that’s a little bit unhealthy?
The fact that the characters never had a real conversation on what makes us human and where the line is drawn for artificial intelligence is kind of disappointing. However, this situation really showed Lor’s naivety. He never got suspicious and he believed every excuse Alainn feed to him. Which is pretty accurate considering he has never went outside and experienced “the real world”.
Another plot point I didn’t like about the story was the Cara Miller backstory. It wasn’t mentioned until halfway into the story and then afterwards it becomes very prominent. I didn’t see the point in having this backstory. I liked that Alainn has a story that doesn’t revolve around her family and one so traumatizing but I didn’t like that it wasn’t mentioned for so long. If this event was so important and traumatizing for Alainn then shouldn’t it be mentioned earlier on? It was pretty much irrelevant to me and it was like a side story that didn’t mix with the main plot.
In the end, I gave this book a 3 out of 5 stars! I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would but it was enjoyable, especially the ending. The story was suspenseful, had cute moments, and was a very original take on “the tale as old as time”!
– Janeli (The Underground Bookdom)