The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison Here’s one I grabbed randomly off the teen new book shelf, rather than finding through reviews or from being previously familiar with the author. It turns out to be a second book, and so is somewhat mistitled to match better with the first book, The Princess and the Hound. Really, this book is about a hound (who was for a while in the previous book turned into a princess, and who becomes human partway through this book) and a bear, who really used to be a prince. If you got all that, I think that The Prince and the Hound would have been a more accurate title. They have been companions for a long time, living peacefully in the forest, and the chapters alternate perspectives between these two characters. As the story opens, the hound meets a cat-man who is spreading magical and literal death in the forest – unmagic. The hound and the bear reluctantly decide that the only way to stop this is to visit the Wild Man in the mountains, who first turned the prince into a bear a couple centuries previously. The bear who was a prince has a bear come to realize how terrible he was at being human, so that he is ashamed and even more reluctant when the Wild Man says that the only way to stop the problem is to go back in time to when he was prince and try to undo some of the harm that he did. The premise does not come off quite as convoluted as it sounds, though there is a bit of set-up. Anyway, the hound and Chala, when she is a woman, reflect a lot on the various natures of humans and animals, how they are alike and how different. The Bear/Prince, on the other hand, thinks about the nature of magic, gifts, and power. If the ending felt a little sudden and tidy to me, it’s still both exciting and thoughtful. Animal lovers especially will enjoy this tale of animals, humans and magic.
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