My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas

August 12, 2014 Historical, Reviews 3

a Eurasian woman is seen from the back in a white undergarment with corseting, against a patterned blue wall.My Beautiful Enemy is a book possibly better without it’s prequel. The Hidden Blade was so exceptional that My Beautiful Enemy is left with shoes it can’t fill. Yet My Beautiful Enemy is an excellent story on it’s own merits. Catherine Blade is the heroine of her own life. She’s capable, almost fearless, intelligent and moral. (But I’m not sure she’s still Ying-Ying.) Leighton, who is completely present in The Hidden Blade, becomes even more interesting in My Beautiful Enemy. I promised I would call Sherry Thomas out if the following spoiler happened. (It’s only a spoiler if you haven’t read The Hidden Blade, so click away if you have.)

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Leighton has grown into a man who understands hard choices. He’s been an expatriate. He’s been a spy. He’s returned home to find the peace that has eluded him through his life. He’s too careful with his words and too giving of his heart. Toward the end Leighton is overly saint-like, but that matches up with his prequel character. It is in Leighton’s nature to destroy himself for another. Catherine gives nothing. She is distrustful and focused. Since we last saw Catherine life has delivered endless trauma. Is it enough to turn her into the woman we meet? Yes and no.

My Beautiful Enemy alternates between past and present. As young lovers, Leighton and Ying-Ying match up well to their prequel selves. Ying-Ying is daring, impetuous, overly confident of herself in all areas. Leighton is willing to believe in anything that offers him hope and love. Aspects of Ying-Ying are too feral, explained away as caution built up running from her nemesis. In the present, there is little of Ying-Ying left. Catherine is a tool of her master. The sly humor, the whimsical fancies, all are gone. Leighton seems drawn to her primarily because of shared history. He has an unkept promise to fulfill. Where Leighton and Ying-Ying are an excellent match, Leighton is a little too good for Catherine.

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Keeping My Beautiful Enemy from winning my heart is a plot based in communication failures wrapped around a reliance on continual coincidence. In the format of the story, intertwining fate is a necessity. This is a stylistic choice as much as the representation of Chi a physical form. (My Beautiful Enemy is an obvious homage to wuxia, even without the author’s note confirming it.) Still, readers may want to scream “Just TALK to each other, omgwtfbbq”. Ultimately, Sherry Thomas has written an excellent romance with memorable leads. My Beautiful Enemy reads like a film.

Final Assessment: Alpha heroine rediscovers lost love while hunting legendary treasure. A-

Series: Follows The Hidden Blade.

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Meoskop

Meoskop's first non-compulsory book review was in 1973. Although a hit with the 3rd grade, concerns raised by the administration necessitated an extended hiatus. Reviews resumed in 1985 but the concerns are ongoing.

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3 Responses to “My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas”

  1. cleo

    How stand alone is the prequel? Can I just read The Hidden Blade? (or is that like asking if I can just eat one potato chip or chocolate chip cookie)

  2. Meoskop

    The prequel absolutely stands alone. I’m pretty sure right after you read it you will rush headlong into the main book. But it doesn’t feel incomplete on it’s own.

  3. joopdeloop

    I’ve always been a Sherry Thomas fan, and your review for Hidden Blade made me squee – aha, she’s finally published that wuxia novel she’d been talking about. Bought and read in trice and Beautiful Enemy too. I really enjoyed both your reviews, and appreciated the crit in your fridge (now I want a novel about the merchant and his opera singer!) While I slurped these two down like really good soup noodles with lots of Q, here are the things that kept it from total win for me: in Hidden Blade I enjoyed Ying Ying’s relationship to Amah more than anything else. I loved both characters’ imperfections and flaws and complicated relationship. Leighton was too perfect a martyr with too evil of a baddie – everyone else (his mom and dad, dad’s lover, mom’s lover, brother) all seemed brushed in with almost fairytale one dimensionality. In MBE, Catherine and Leighton made a couple with a cinematic (yes stealing that from your review) and dramatic appeal – fun to watch, but maybe lacking the complicated and satisfying emotional alchemy that Sherry Thomas’s best couples have generated in the past for me. Nonetheless, more please.