REVIEW: ENSNARED

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ENSNARED
RITA STRADLING
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: NA, ROMANCE, SCI-FI, RETELLING
★★★★

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Alainn’s father is not a bad man. He’s a genius and an inventor. When he’s hired to create the robot Rose, Alainn knows taking the money is a mistake.

Rose acts like a human. She looks exactly like Alainn. But, something in her comes out wrong.

To save her father from a five year prison sentence, Alainn takes Rose’s place. She says goodbye to the sun and goes to live in a tower no human is allowed to enter. She becomes the prisoner of a man no human is allowed to see.

Believing that a life of servitude lies ahead, Alainn finds a very different fate awaits her in the company of the strange, scarred recluse.

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I really love Beauty and the Beast retellings, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a sci-fi version before. In Ensnared, AIs and robots are commonplace. Alainn’s father works with cybernetics and has designed an AI, Rose, who might just be too smart for comfort. There are two very different covers listed for this book at the moment and I’m not sure either really suits the story. This is a light-weight romance, but there’s a fair bit of action and interesting tech stuff going on too.

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I liked the relationship between Alainn and Lorccan. Both were interesting characters in their own rights, and I liked seeing them find their chemistry. The villain, Rose, is suitably creepy and her motivations are ambiguous for a good chunk of the story. There are some great side characters who grow in importance very organically as the story progresses. My favourites were Alainn’s adorable robot monkey helpers. I loved all of the sci-fi elements and discussions of artificial intelligence.

I did have a couple of plot issues. It seemed that Alainn’s deception went on for too long. It was necessary for their relationship to develop, but I just thought that there were plenty of opportunities for Alainn to come clean. Especially, when things started to go wrong with the plan. Speaking of Rose’s plan, in typical evil genius fashion, it just felt a little too OTT and unrealistic to be truly believable. Despite any plot holes or inconsistencies, this is a fun, fast-paced and charming story and the likeable characters make up for it.

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There’s a number of mental health issues brought up in Ensnared but I didn’t feel like it was consistently well done. I’d like to see what reviewer with similar mental health conditions thought. Lorccan’s fear of the outside world and germs aren’t made fun of, and Alainn never makes his needs out to be an inconvenience. There’s no magical fix at the end either. Shelley, a secondary character, has anxiety, and although she struggles and runs away at one point, she challenges herself and is shown to be brave in her own way. On the other hand, Lorccan’s parents, who seem to have a similar germphobia, are hugely abusive and described as ‘insane’. So, overall, the rep here is a bit of a mixed back.

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