Coiled by H.L. Burke
A healing touch. A hideous face. A looming curse.
As the ugly twin to a perfect sister, Princess Laidra lives her life in the shadows—until her parents offer her as bait for a giant serpent.
Her escape attempt leaves her shipwrecked on a secluded island with only one inhabitant: Prince Calen, who lives under a curse. If anyone looks upon him, he turns into a giant serpent. Speaking to him in the darkness, Laidra sees past the monster to Calen’s lonely soul, and she determines to free him from the magic’s hold.
But if Laidra can’t break the curse in time, Calen will become a mindless creature of scales and fangs forever.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley and Uncommon Universes Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Laidra carries half of a curse.
She and her sister were given a mirror curse at birth. For one, kindness makes her hideous. For the other, cruelty makes her beautiful. Laidra knows the boundaries of her curse, and yet she presses them, because she has an extraordinary gift and wants to help people. The two princesses are not the only mirror-cursed, seeking a cure. In a neighboring kingdom two brothers suffer from a more terrifying fate.
By himself, Calen is a kind and gentle soul. However, when anyone lays their eyes upon him, he turns into a terrifying beast. It is a cruel curse, and it has split the family in two. Calen’s mother champions him while his father chooses his brother Volen, who only becomes a monster when alone. A kingdom, after all, needs an heir. Volen and his father will do whatever they must to secure his future… even if that means allowing a hideous princess to be devoured by a monster.
The Greek influence in this was delightful.
While this is definitely not a direct Greek myth retelling, there is the feel of Perseus and Hercules in these pages. You do see influences of Greek myth – I’ve seen other reviewers reference both Eros and Psyche and Beauty and the Beast, which is fair – but this story felt fresh. There is a Greek style pantheon and there are quests and gorgons and I thought it was delightful.
On the flip side of that, I will admit that the format of the story is very familiar. There’s a boy meets girl story. There’s a quest. The quest felt a bit rushed? I feel like Burke made good choices in the twists of this story, choosing to make the journey difficult for the protagonists when at some point maybe they could have caught a break.
Everyone loves a simple, light read.
As a 200-something page fairytale retelling, don’t expect this book to be deep and philosophical. The subplots are few and the cunning of the villains is incredibly Disney-esque. All of these things are perfectly fine, but it’s a good thing to know before you jump in. The YA/MG market is flooded with dark fairytale retellings lately, but this is definitely not one of them.
You can’t help but to root for Laidra and Calen. Beyond any aspect of a love story, these are two tortured souls. They are good people who are ostracized because of their curse. They are not instantly in love and I think that’s wonderful because it’s interesting how much of insta-love is defined by looks. When two people cannot (or do not) see each other, then the love story is different. I thought it was sweet and well done.
I’d read this story to my younglings.
While not particularly intense, heartbreaking, or complicated, Coiled is a really lovely story. It’s a great vision of fairytale and myth and completely accessible. Even as an adult, I thought it was charming.
I believe this book would be best suited to middle grade or YA readers on the younger end of the spectrum. While the characters are older, the way this book is written may leave more advanced readers wanting for more. It’s a fun romp for fans of Greek myth, or for fantasy lovers that want something light and fluffy that won’t make them want to vomit from all its cheesy goop.