Title: Before Midnight [Blood Prince 1]
Author: Jennifer Blackstream
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Rating: 3 Stars
Loupe always dreamed of getting married. She yearned for a caring husband who would take her away from her servant-like existence at home with her stepmother and two stepsisters, a man who would love her forever. Those dreams ended the day she was bitten by a werewolf. Now she’s a mindless beast on the night of the full moon—a condition that forever prevents her from sharing a marriage bed. Not even the attentions of a handsome and endearingly strong prince can convince her that the life she wants is still possible.
Etienne is a prince in need of a werewolf. A werewolf himself from birth, Etienne and his family have protected their kingdom with tooth and claw—literally—for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the spell of a well-meaning witch is slowly turning him human. Only the bite of a cursed werewolf, one who was not born with the beast inside, can save him from becoming human. He has no time for anything that will not lead him to a cure for the cure. Not even the beautiful maiden whose gentle nature soothes his soul can take his mind from his goal.
Love cares little for the best laid plans or the impossible. A grand ball. The stroke of twelve. A magic “slipper.” All kinds of things can happen when you don’t leave the ball…Before Midnight.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
Wow, what to say about this book. Like most books that I read, I skipped over the synopsis. Call me lazy, or forgetful, but I usually like to jump into books not knowing a lot about them. I usually read the title and the genre, but other than that, I leave it up to fate. I like to jump into things not knowing where they’re going. Sometimes I end up pleasantly surprised, and sometimes I end up going “oh… that’s what this is…” Unfortunately, this was a bit of the latter.
At it’s heart, Before Midnight is a retelling of the Cinderella story. That isn’t bad in and of itself—I think given some care, retellings can be almost better than the original story as long as the author puts some effort into really expanding upon the core idea. This story wasn’t like that. Yes, there were a few things changed—for instance: the prince is a lycanthrope… in fact, the entire royal family is. Also, the Cinderella of this story, Loupe, is a loup garou (bitten werewolf vs. born a werewolf like the prince). That certainly promises to make the story a bit of a different telling – and it did… to an extent.
The main problem I had with the story itself is that it was predictable. It didn’t take more than the first three chapters to realize that this story was a retelling – and hence, I already knew the ending. There weren’t any plot twists or turns to surprise me, and I instantly knew everything was going to turn out all right. That’s how fairytales end. To be honest, it would have been nice to see this end tragically, or at the very least have a bit more tension built in. There were some instances that I thought were going to lead to conflict (Like Loupe and her family being poachers and skinning wolves left and right) that quickly fizzled out and in the end, didn’t make much of a difference. The evil characters were Evil with a capital E, and the good characters were Good with a capital G. There was no gray area.
The narrative itself jumped around a little bit. Going into the story, my first impression of the narrative is that it was slow and dry. The Introduction was verbose and filled with needless detail about each character it introduced and every movement they took. It dragged. Then in the middle of the story, once it got into the romance between Prince Etienne and Loupe, the language turned very… blunt and modern. I wasn’t sure what time period the story was set in (and I wasn’t given a lot of clues) but it seemed odd to have the prince say things like “tell me you jest” and then in the same chapter have him drop the F-bomb.
Not only did the narrative move around a lot, but so did the mythology; including things such as the world-tree, but also the fey, vampires, werewolves (two types, from two different mythologies), demons, angels, dryads and berserkers… It’s not bad to have a mixed mythology like this – in fact, usually it’s quite entertaining, but again, it made it hard to figure out where this story fell in it’s world building. I think I would have preferred a more stringent set of rules to adhere to. It would have at least been nice to know what part of the world the story was taking place in, or the time period—neither of which I was privy to.
The characters themselves weren’t bad. I liked Etienne (even if he was a bit moronic by his lack of realizing Loupe was a loup garou…), and Loupe was… pleasant despite her weak character. I only wish the author hadn’t softened the blow of Loupe’s big kick-ass moment by basically telling us what was going to happen with a short backstory about an ancestor. It really stole her thunder. My biggest complaint about any of the characters was Loupe’s name. Why on earth would an author name the main character after her own species..? A species, I might add, that the prince spends the entirety of the book looking for? It was so obvious that I literally face palmed. It made the prince seem stupid, and it made me angry, because I felt as if, as a reader, I was being treated as moronic as well.
In the end, I felt as if the reader was being treated like a child for most of the story. The impacts were softened for me, the tension was pushed aside, the events were obvious before hand…honestly, it was a bit frustrating. So why did I give it three stars? Because despite all of this, the book wasn’t bad. It was a quick afternoon read, I was entertained, and the writing itself was clear and grammatically correct (minus one missing word I found). I liked it. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrendous either. It was, and I hesitate to say this, cute. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes, if they’re a fan of werewolves and the story of Cinderella. I don’t think I’d push it on to any hardcore paranormal romance readers though. It certainly wasn’t genre breaking or fascinating, but it was okay.