One of the things I like best about sequels and series, especially in fantasy books, is again getting to visit the world the author imagined, especially when the world is as fascinating as the one that Mette Ivie Harrison has imagined.
The Princess and the Bear follows the story of the Hound and the Bear from the end of The Princess and the Hound. Told through alternating chapter narratives, the book tells the story of the two unlikely companions who find solace in their togetherness, until the spread of unmagic threatens to destroy their comfortable — if lonely — life. They journey to the wild man, the one person who can aid them in righting this horrible wrong. The wild man sends the Hound and the Bear back to a point in time when the magic is overly volatile, to deal with and stop the source of the unmagic. It also happens that this point in time is when the Bear was a human: King Richon, a spoiled brat of a king who was used and taken advantage of by his evil advisors. It’s up to him, with the aid of the Hound — now a human, Chala — to find the source of evil, right the wrongs that Richon did before spending 200 years as a bear, in order to fix the future.
The best part of this novel, much like the first one, are the words. Harrison paints a gorgeous picture of the world she’s imagined. It’s also a thoughtful book, one the reader does not plow through, but instead wants to linger over the pages soaking in the atmosphere. Yet, for all the novel’s flow and thoughtfulness, Harrison is a writer for a particular sort of person, someone who is willing to take a slower, quieter pace and enjoy the words instead of the characterization and plot. There’s very little action; there’s very little romance (like the first book, it grows slowly, so much so that you almost miss it). There is a definite character arc, but, again, it’s something that will sneak up on you, almost without your knowing. It’s not exactly something that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The evil guys aren’t that scary, the action isn’t that captivating, the romance isn’t that swoon-inducing.
Yet, there is something magical in Harrison’s writing. And that’s just enough to draw the reader in and be completely captivating.