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.)View Spoiler »Dude! Why are all the gay characters dead?? We couldn’t have one in The Hidden Blade? What about his brother? A friend? Someone! « Hide Spoiler
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.View Spoiler »Catherine gave birth to a daughter, who is murdered by the mutual enemy of Leighton and Ying-Ying. Their daughter’s death, traumatic as it is for Leighton, is what changes Ying-Ying. I felt like Thomas killed the child so readers would forgive Ying-Ying’s planned murder of Leighton. That Leighton forgave it remained inexplicable. I was also disappointed that Leighton’s alternate love interest plays a pivotal role in the ending of the book. It wan’t necessary. « Hide Spoiler
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.
*This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins.