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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
Coiled by H.L. Burke is a stunning fairy tale inspired by the myth of Eros and Psyche. Laidra is used to hiding in the shadows as her sister Ellea shines in the spotlight. Laidra is destined to become more hideous with every person she heals while her sister becomes fairer with every heart she breaks. When her parents agree to send her off to be used as bait for a serpent, Laidra is rescued from the water by Calen, a prince forced to hide on an island due to a curse of his own. Whenever someone lays eyes on him, he becomes a giant serpent. As Laidra finds a safe haven in the castle Calen calls home, she begins to see the kind soul underneath the mindless monster Calen becomes. As his father and brother plot a way to end the curse while sacrificing Calen, Laidra puts her trust in a surprising ally and must learn how to follow her heart.
Coiled is a dazzling love story that finds the beauty within through an adventure rooted in curses and family, sibling strife and a hero's quest. H.L. Burke explores the world of a fairy tale, taking several familiar elements and blending them together. There's a bit of a Beauty and the Beast aspect to the story as Burke flips the idea of both beauty and beast. It's an interesting twist on the idea of Beauty and the Beast. Laidra may have more of a beastly appearance, but it's her beautiful sister that's the true beast, which is immediately revealed in the opening scene when Laidra sees her sister torturing a bird. Calen and his brother share a similar curse with Calen perceived as the beast because he can't be seen without turning into a serpent, but it's actually his brother who acts the part. Burke has a vivid commentary through the two brothers as one feels lonely due to his constant isolation while the other can't ever be alone and would do anything for solitude.
Burke creates complex antagonists through the siblings who, though being the “beasts” of the story, also evoke a bit of sympathy through the state of the curse and how the parents pit both sets of siblings against each other. Calen and Laidra have a sweet relationship, which starts with trust and friendship before slowly turning into love. Their bond is what defines fairy tales, being sincere and romantic with each accepting the other for exactly who they are. There are several fun twists on an assortment of mythological characters. A complex world built on fairy tales and Greek mythology, Coiled is a must-read for any fairy tale lover!