Beautiful by Juliet Marillier
One day, Hulde is going to marry her prince. Her mother has assured her, that once she marries her prince all will be well. But Hulde isn’t too sure she wants to marry—she’s too young, and she’s not entirely keen on marrying someone she only just met. Plus, her bear friend Rune isn’t going to be at the wedding, and she just doesn’t know what she can do about that.
This is a retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, retold not from the perspective of the cursed prince or the woman who travels to the ends of the earth to rescue him from the troll queen, but from the point of view of the troll queen’s daughter who was to marry the handsome prince.
I’ll be honest, I absolutely hated Hulde.
I understood her, but I still abhorred her.
She’s an emotionally stunted 16-year-old princess who thinks and acts like an 8-year-old because of the emotional abuse and neglect from her controlling troll queen mother. When she finally gets her agency upon the death of her mother, she decides (wisely) that she’s not ready to be queen and that she does not want to be a queen like her mother.
So how does she decide to fix that?
Well, she’d been watching whats-her-face’s long journey to rescue Rune and decided that hey, that’s a good idea for me!
So she spends probably 3 hours (it felt like it took 3 hours for her to actually get the door) talking about how she must go on this journey alone because she must find herself and she must do it all by herself without any help dammit and nevermind the fact that she has never done a single thing for herself before.
So Bad Idea Bear goes on a journey into the wilderness and lands of untrustworthy humans, and discovers, Oh Shit, This Was a Bad Idea.
Me, at this point in the book:
Anywho, she’s rescued by two troll brothers who’s names I can’t remember since it’s been over a month since I listened to the book, and they teach her pretty much everything she needs to know, and she ends up uniting the troll clans and actually being a good leader because she listens to people.
I think there was a battle or something because someone tried to overthrow her but I honestly can’t remember. Hulde does grow (a lot) as a character and as a person with agency who learns to think for herself (and also undo the mistakes and trauma of her parent), but the decentness of the last third didn’t overcome my irritation from the first third.
It’s a solid two-star read (due to annoying MC and really bad narrator voice), but I bumped it up to three stars because it has a very positive polyamorous relationship and I was so pleased (and surprised) to see that!