For years Jack has dreamed of climbing the beanstalk to the sky in hopes of capturing some of the giant’s treasure. Jack is miserable and lonely and an outcast in his village, due to his red hair. He can barely make ends meet, and his only hope for a new life away from the village is to find some of the hidden treasure. Year after year something stops Jack from making the quest, but when his mother sells his beloved cow, leaving him in debt and with no connections in life, Jack decides to give it a try.
When Jack reaches the top of the beanstalk, he finds a castle in the sky, complete with the fabled giant. Although Jack is quickly captured, he manages to turn the tables and get the upper hand. But try as he might, Jack just can’t find the treasure. In the meantime, he comes to realize that the stories he has been told all his life about an evil giant are untrue. Rion is actually a kind man who has heard just as many horror stories about the Outsiders as people have heard about him. The men slowly come to a truce, developing a friendship and ultimately a deep connection.
Jack and Rion are both such lonely men with no one in their lives to care about them. Jack is hated by his family for his red hair and thought cursed by the town. Rion lives alone in the castle, the last of his line left to protect the treasure. Together they find a love and a passion that leaves them both wishing there could be a future for them. But Rion is determined to do his duty, to find a wife and to start a family so he can continue his family obligations. However, when a new threat to the treasure and Rion’s safety comes, the men will fight with all they have to defeat the enemies and have a future together.
So obviously Rise is a retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk story, and it is quite a lot of fun. I am a big fan of fairy tale retellings and this is not one I come across too often. It is a bit unusual in the genre as it puts our traditional hero and villain together, each who have to open their minds to better understand the other. These are two such lonely men, each longing for companionship but not expecting to ever find the love they want. Rion has accepted he must sacrifice himself for his family and protect the treasure after his other siblings left the castle to pursue their own lives. For years since his parents’ deaths he has been alone, fueled by his sense of duty and his certainty of the evil that lies below him. Jack is also alone, hated by his family and the villagers. He too has heard stories of evil, this time from the sky. So both these men start off as enemies, certain that they know all about the other, but really knowing nothing. Rion and Jack are good, sweet men and worthy of love. It is really rewarding to see them find happiness together.
The authors take the traditional story and keep many of the key elements, while also adding some twists. We have the beanstalk and the cow and the giant in the clouds of legend. But we also get some really creative expansion on this tale, especially in regards to Rion and his family and his legacy. There is also a side plot involving the son of the baron, a former lover of Jack’s who mistreated him and now is married to his sister. So there is a nice balance here of the very recognizable tale, accompanied by some really clever story telling that further builds the world.
Rise is an expanded and revised version of a story previously published by the authors with Ellora’s Cave. It was originally released as Ascending Hearts and part of a fairy tale series (and I reviewed the original here). I enjoyed it so much the first time around I was eager to give it another try in its new iteration. To be honest, I read it long enough ago I couldn’t spot the changes, so it is hard to say whether it is worth rebuying if you already own the other version. But I can definitely recommend this version with no hesitation. Rise is fun, sexy, and cleverly done. I really enjoyed it a lot.