fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie HarrisonThe Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison

I was about three chapters into The Princess and the Bear when I realized that it must be a sequel. The narrative seemed to assume that I knew more about the characters and their situation that I actually did, and after a quick flick to the back of the book (where there was an interview with the author) this was confirmed. The predecessor to this is The Princess and the Hound, the reading of which probably would have given me a greater understanding of the background that this book draws upon in the crafting of its story.

Yet in saying that, I prefer that every book be readable in and of itself, and the fact is that I struggled a bit to get a grip on what was going on here since it felt as though most of the pertinent background information on many of the characters had been established in the first book. This dampened my enjoyment a little, so I would encourage any would-be readers to first get their hands on The Princess and the Hound before tackling this one.

The prologue tells of a student of magic who turns a wild cat into a human being only to discover that his feat has grave consequences. By the time the book starts proper, we are (re)introduced to a hound and a bear living wild in the forests that discover their home is under threat from a strange magical coldness that destroys all living things it touches. Both of them believe that a mysterious cat man is responsible for the affliction, and journey to see the wild man in the hopes of finding a solution.

As it happens, the bear is actually a prince cursed into the form of a bear as punishment for the greed and selfishness of his youth (I can only assume this is explored more fully in the preceding book) and the wild man offers him a choice: to go back to the time where he was first turned into a bear so that he might atone for his past crimes and find a way to stop the cat man and his “unmagic” before it gets the chance to spread any further.

To this, the bear — now called King Richon — agrees, and with him goes the hound, transforming into human form and calling herself Chala. Together they travel into Richon’s kingdom to discover the answers to their quest. With chapters that alternate between each character, there’s a real sense of dependency between them that runs throughout the story, amplified by the exploration of symbiotic relationships that form between human beings and the animal kingdom. By the end, it’s clear that both humankind and wild animals need to work together if they’re to defeat their common enemy.

It sounds like quite a complex set-up but the story itself is simple enough. At times it’s almost too simple, with plenty of chapters being devoted to the bear and hound journeying through the woodlands and meeting with various other characters, but only a few scant paragraphs devoted to dealing with the problem they were sent back in time to resolve. Another odd pacing issue is that the book continues on well after the climax of the narrative, divulging details on Richon and Chala’s life together that have no real bearing on the first two-thirds of the story.

I had already read and enjoyed Mette Ivie Harrison’s Mira, Mirror, and recognized her very detailed and evocative prose. She creates a vivid rendering of the forestlands that Richon and Chala traverse, as well as insight on how it actually feels to be a bear and hound: the sights, the sounds, the sensations. She has a good grasp on how to write action and description (a necessity considering there is so little dialogue in the book) and it’s easy to become invested in the thoughts and feelings of her two main characters.

Yet I can’t help but feel that I would have enjoyed it more if I’d read The Princess and the Hound first, and unfortunately there’s nothing on the cover of the book that indicates that it’s a sequel. For a standalone book it’s a little difficult to grasp, so if it piques your interest, definitely track down its predecessor first.

Release date: April 28, 2009 He was once a king, turned into a bear as punishment for his cruel and selfish deeds. She was a once a princess, now living in the form of a hound. Wary companions, they are sent — in human form — back to a time when magic went terribly astray. Together they must right the wrongs caused by this devastating power — if only they can find a way to trust each other. But even as each becomes aware of an ever-growing attraction, the stakes are rising and they must find a way to eliminate this evil force — or risk losing each other forever.

Mette Ivie Harrison 1. The Princess and the Hound 2. The Princess and the Bear 3. The Princess and the Snowbird Mette Ivie Harrison 1. The Princess and the Hound 2. The Princess and the Bear 3. The Princess and the Snowbird fantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviews


  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.