An Agnostic Reviews Christian Fiction: The Rose and the Balloon by Kirsten Fichter

by - 6:12 PM

Aaaaaand we're back with another installment in this series (one of my favorite series to write, actually). And don't worry, it's a lot lighter and shorter than the doozy that was the most recent one. This time, I'm reviewing an indie novella that's a steampunk Beauty & the Beast retelling. Any of that trip your trigger? Keep reading!

In a kingdom where fauna and flora are held in higher esteem than breakfast, Dmitri is a prince who yearns for change and plans it in a single daring act that will alter his life forever. However, when his demented mother accidentally causes the destruction of a prized garden of roses, Dmitri is horrified when she proposes his hand in marriage to make up for it. Not only will a wife hamper his glorious plans, he doesn't even want one. 

Janelle has spent her whole life on her father's rose farm, tending the roses and staying simple. But she really yearns for something greater than the flower beds. But now there's a wrench thrown in the works – the crazy Queen Maeva wants her to marry the prince, and all for ruining her father's beloved roses.

This is Beauty and the Beast with a twist like you've never seen it before.

I'm not usually one for retellings, but the idea of one that was a) steampunk and b) Beauty and the Beast drew me right in. (It was also super cheap on Kindle, which I am ALWAYS down for.) A few days later, here are my thoughts.

I definitely feel like this should have been longer. Not novel length, but still more than 112 pages. Everything from the pacing to character development felt a little rushed, a little cramped, like the book was trying to squeeze itself into a small space instead of stretch out and relax properly. I also definitely got debut vibes from this -- you know when everything about a book is almost there but not quite, and you think "Yeah, this is definitely a debut"? That was my thought throughout this book.

I did enjoy some of the takes on elements of Beauty and the Beast. The whole magic rose bit was awesome, for one. However, there were a lot of things I found to be either shoved in or entirely missing. The only similarity Janelle has to Belle (that I can see) is that they're both bookworms, but Janelle's love of books is only mentioned in one line and then never brought up again. The beast element also seemed to be tossed in and didn't get nearly the page time it should have given how critical it is in the original fairytale. And some things, like Belle's iconic golden dress, were not to be found at all. I think this could be more accurately called "Beauty and the Beast inspired" than a "Beauty and the Beast retelling." That's not bad in of itself, it's just not how the book was billed, so I felt thrown off and a little disappointed while reading.

I feel like that all makes it sound like I disliked this book, but I didn't! I loved the steampunk element (though I wish it were emphasized more), and almost all the characters were awesome! From Lord Roux to Dmitri, Maeva to the twins, the cast here was so strong. (Although I was a tiny bit uncomfortable with the way Maeva's mental illness was portrayed. It just seemed to feed into out-of-date cartoonish stereotypes about the mentally ill, and that one moment where she suddenly popped into reality to dole out critical wisdom and then promptly go back into her fairyland didn't really do it for me either.) And I liked Janelle, she just didn't seem to be as developed as the others? Like . . . I know she likes pranks, has a temper, is a bookworm (which is only told, never shown), and . . . ummmm . . . idk man, she has brown hair?? I think if I'd learned more about her, I would have enjoyed her as much as the others. Alas, it is not to be. 

As for the Christianity in this book: as an agnostic, I have no complaints. The religious content in this book shouldn't keep anyone from reading it. It's not at all preachy or overbearing; all it does is show Janelle and Dmitri drawing on their faith to help make them better people. Which is what faith should do, if you ask me. (Not that you did.)

tl;dr I liked this story, but I felt like a lot of the elements were under-developed or not quite there. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the characters, and it was a nice, quick read. Plus, the Christian element was really well-done. If you enjoy indie Christian work or unique retellings (or are looking for some fast reads to help you finish out that Goodreads challenge), you might want to look into The Rose and the Balloon.

PSSST! If you enjoyed this, you might like some of my other agnostic reviews of Christian fiction:

Samara's Peril by Jaye L. Knight
The Thief by Stephanie Landsem
Resistance by Jaye L. Knight

Let's chat! What are your favorite retellings? What genres are out of your comfort zone, and how often do you read books in them? Would you consider reading The Rose and the Balloon? Comment below, and have a fabulous day. <3

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  1. I decided to hop over here after you commented on my blog to see all your bookish content. (I'm a fan. XD)

    I really like how you did this review. You are respectful about Christianity and you don't mind reading about it either, which is a rare trait in people who aren't Christian. So for that, thank you for being a respectful person. <3

    I think I want to check out this novella because I've never read Steampunk. I've heard of it, but have never found an explanation for what it is and I want to know.

    Wonderful review. :D

    1. Thank you! Gray once said something like, "A book being secular would never stop me from reading it, so a book being Christian shouldn't stop people from reading it, either." I completely agree. I have a few atheist friends who consider themselves adventurous readers, but they refuse to even consider picking up Christian fiction. I think that's a little hypocritical.

      Steampunk is so much fun! It's basically a retrofuturistic sci-fi and fantasy subgenre that incorporates technology and aesthetics (like art, fashion, etc.) inspired by 1800s steam-powered machinery. Basically, it's stuff with Victorian or Wild West vibes AND cool steam-powered technology. Though The Rose and the Balloon is billed as steampunk, it's definitely lighter on it/leans more toward regular fantasy than most steampunk I've read. So it could be a good introduction for you!

      Thanks again!


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