Kendra gets involved in more fun fairytale antics, but doesn’t get the backstory development fans hoped for in BEHELD.
Alex Flinn’s feisty witch Kendra, who was first introduced in Beastly before appearing in Bewitching and Mirrored, is back! This time, we’re finding out about the eternally young witch’s past, particularly the secret love that she’s kept hidden through her previous adventures. With her trusty magic mirror in hand, Kendra is also helping out a few other people along the way. There’s only one problem: Like the other stories in The Kendra Chronicles, things still aren’t really about Kendra and fans looking for a deeper background on the character will probably find themselves disappointed.
Over the course of the novel, Alex Flinn inserts Kendra into adaptations of four different fairytales: Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and The Ugly Duckling. Kendra’s personal story is mostly interwoven between the other stories and unfortunately, we don’t feel it was always given the credence it deserved. Let’s break down each section a bit!
The Little Red Riding Hood story in the only one in which Kendra herself is a central character in the action (she affects characters in the other stories, but they aren’t strictly about her.) It involves a bit of retcon on Alex Flinn’s part, as Kendra essentially says “You know how I said I wasn’t at the Salem Witch Trials? I lied. I was totally there.” But this time period and tale is the one that introduces us to Kendra’s first and only love, warlock James Brandon. The two have an immediate connection, but things get really complicated as Ann Putnam begins to accuse women in Salem of using witchcraft against her, including Kendra. Rather than being the only magical force, Kendra works with James to free herself without giving up her true nature.
Next, we head to Bavaria for a Rumpelstiltskin adaptation that refreshingly tweaks the main character so he isn’t a blackmailing creep. When a young maiden falls for a charming man in the local market, she’ll do anything to impress him. Things get a little out of hand, but thankfully Kendra and her mysterious book stall employee are rooting for the girl in question. This story gets a little preachy, but the setting and pacing are great and we really appreciated the charming endgame.
East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon is a lesser known tale for us, which is probably why it was so easy to fall into this section of the book. Set in World War II London, Kendra finds herself brokering a strange marriage deal between two near strangers who have fallen for each other, but with one odd catch: The newlywed wife is told she can’t look at her husband’s face. It will take a wild journey, trickery, and a little help from Kendra to help these two reach happily ever after. Of the four stories, this one was definitely our favorite.
The last and longest of the bunch is based on The Ugly Duckling. Set in modern day America, the story follows lifelong best friends Chris and Amanda. The story is told from the perspective of Chris, who has had more than friendly feelings for Amanda for many years, but being short, chubby, and lacking confidence, he figures Amanda will never love him back. You can probably guess how Kendra uses her magic here! Soon, Chris will learn that looks aren’t everything and growing up is way more complicated than he expected. This one was really sweet and had great character development but unfortunately, it had pacing issues and seemed to drag on at times.
You’ll notice that one thing is largely missing here: Kendra and James’ story. This was a huge point of frustration for us. In the first tale, we only see Kendra and James together in a handful of scenes and their relationship doesn’t get developed very richly before circumstance separates them. At the end of other each story, Kendra and James briefly find each other again for a few pages, only to be pulled apart despite advancements in technology and magic. If we got a little more time with them before the big finale, we would have been more pleased. Instead, it felt like we got maybe 50 pages of Kendra and James in a 400-page book. The book really isn’t about Kendra. If you can approach it from a “Come for the fairytale retellings, stay for a little intertwined romance” approach, you’ll probably have a happier reading experience.
If you’ve enjoyed Alex Flinn’s previous retellings, we think you’ll still enjoy the stories in Beheld, but it’s just not what we expected, nor do we think it was the strongest book in the series.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS
Beheld is out now. You can buy it via Amazon.