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Monday, February 6, 2012

Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey: Reading Part 3

And we return to reading Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey. In chapters 5 and 6, we learn more about the invisible servants Sebastian summons and more about Eric, the nefarious Gamekeeper.

To catch up or review, here are parts one and two of this reading.



Chapter 5

When Bella wakes, she directs her invisible servant to take her to Duke Sebastian, a task the spirit is clearly hesitant to perform. But it escorts her down to the cellars where the duke is inspecting a heavy door. Bella startles him, and Sebastian assures her that the only explanation he can come up with for why he escaped the previous night is that the latch must not have shut properly. He oils the mechanism to ensure such does not occur again. Bella leaves the cellars just in time to hear Sebastian lock himself in and test the door. She looks up to find moonrise almost upon them.

Reader Comments: It was Eric! Why don’t they hear me and take precautions? Surely, he’s going to try something else soon. He’s probably still sore over Bella’s treatment of him in the woods. Okay, I know they’re only fictional characters and incapable of hearing, much less heeding me, but still.

Writer Comments: Even though we know that Bella is unlikely to encounter Sebastian the werewolf for several more chapters, Lackey carefully keeps the tension high in this scene. Sunset and the half foot thick door do a lot to remind us that the danger of the werewolf remains close.

Bella gives her servant the name Verte, since he wears a green scarf around his arm so she can see him. Verte seems to appreciate this distinction quite a bit and shows Bella to the kitchens upon her request. There, she orders the invisible cooks to each wear some sort of armband to distinguish themselves and begins instructing Thyme, the one who put a sprig of thyme in his armband and is the head cook, how to best use their food stores and menus better so as not to waste so much food as she saw that morning when she arrived at the manor. She quickly establishes a good rapport with the servants and starts taking over the running of the household, at least in part.

Reader Comments: I like that Lackey gives the spirit servants personalities. As Bella begins to name them, they begin to become distinct.

Writer Comments: Here is where we see how Bella’s original life plays well into the actual plot of the story. In the first few chapters, she establishes herself as an efficient and skilled manager of her father’s household. Now, with the duke, though she proceeds without permission, these same skills prove her mechanism for combating loneliness, fear, and for making allies in a rather precarious situation.

But ordering the duke’s household can distract Bella only so much. That night, listing to the howls of the werewolf beneath the manor, she weeps. Another spirit, who Bella names Sapphire, comforts her and proves that at least some of them can write. Sapphire uses a slate and chalk to assure Bella fervently that the spirits won’t allow Bella to turn into a werewolf. But when Bella asks Sapphire how, Sapphire can only say, “Cant tell.”

Reader Comments: Might this have something to do with the curse upon Sebastian, maybe something to do with love.

Writer Comments: So far in this book, Lackey has shown Bella’s strong and capable side, but here, she allows us to glimpse Bella’s vulnerable heart. The contrast makes Bella all the more interesting and sympathetic. A strong heroine is fine, but when she also experiences fear, has a point where she will break down and cry, and earnestly desires friendship and company, she’s all the more relatable and enjoyable.

Chapter 6

The next morning, after a good sleep, Bella feels much better. She continues her ordering of the servants and explores the hothouse where Sebastian grows fresh herbs and vegetables even in winter. There, Eric shows up. He claims that he acts like such a cad in the woods to drive people away so no one risks coming near Sebastian when he’s the wolf. He offers a truce between them, which Bella accepts with some reluctance. For all Eric’s claims make sense, she still can’t forget that at the guild ball when he was in disguise, he still threatened her.

Reader Comments: This is unnerving. When is he going to pull his next stunt to hurt Bella? Yes, I know, I could be totally off on accusing Eric of ultimate villainy, but it makes so much sense and is so enjoyable to do.

Writer Comments: Lackey gives a perfectly logical, perfectly reasonable explanation for most of Eric’s villainous behavior. It’s always more interesting when the villains or potential villains make sense, have sympathetic traits, and put doubt into the hero and reader’s mind regarding their true selves. Make your villains as complex and layered as your heroes.

Bella dines with Sebastian later day. Sebastian endears himself further with his humble charm and concern for Bella’s comfort. He assures her that the Godmother knows of her situation and will be sending something along to help her keep tabs on her family. He also states, with no question, that she will remain there for at least three months, and during the full moon of the next month, he will have to lock her up, just in case. But, except for that, he wishes to give her what he can to make her stay as pleasant as possible. Bella says she misses music, and Sebastian suggests that he could summon more spirits to perform for her. Bella says she’d prefer to see if any of the current ones are musicians first and, to Sebastian’s surprise, reveals that she’s communicated with the spirits, that they’re not all as simple as Sebastian has taken them for, and that at least some of them can write. Sebastian requests she see what else they can do.

Reader Comments: Throughout this section, Bella starts finding more and more reasons to pity Eric and to be charitable to Sebastian despite her distaste for the situation. I really like that she can be these ways in spite of everything.

Writer Comments: Sebastian is the image of the uncertain and, honestly, somewhat geeky wizard/werewolf/duke. This is not at all a direction I would have expected Beast or a werewolf to go. Lackey does the unexpected to give the story a fresh spin.

Bella interviews Verte and Sapphire about the capabilities of the other spirits. She discovers that a minority are intelligent, that a number of talented in music, and that Eric controls far more of the manor and lands than she’d expected. Bella also discovers that there is only one intelligent spirit with Eric, and that spirit keeps his intelligence hidden.

Reader Comments: It seems the more Bella interacts with and acknowledges the spirit servants, the more they trust her and are willing to devote themselves to her. The spirits have clearly been neglected and underestimated and the intelligent ones are lapping up the attention and opportunities Bella offers them.

Writer Comments: Bella’s sympathy stirs even more for Eric in this scene, but Verte reveals more of Eric that concerns me. Maybe he isn’t the ultimate villain, but if not, he sure has a lot of worrisome control over Sebastian’s life and lands. Lackey slowly reveals more with each scene and keeps the reader guessing, exactly what she needs to do.

I hope you enjoy these chapters. Join me next Monday for part 4 of Mercedes Lackey’s Beauty and the Werewolf and Wednesday and Friday as well.

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