Booklife Reviews Editor's Pick


Bearly Gold Goldilocks Reimagined by ND Jones Book Life Editors Pick by nakindj

Reimagining Goldilocks and the Three Bears - A New Twist on an Old Tale

When brainstorming a plot for Bearly Gold, the most important question I asked myself was: Why would a seven-year-old break into a stranger's home, eat their food, break their property, and then fall asleep in their bed? Once arriving at an answer to that question, the heart of Bearly Gold, I wrote a story unlike any other reimagining of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."

As the author, I've narrowed Bearly Gold down to four key takeaways.

  1. It's important to live a life of passion and purpose.
  2. Family (biological and chosen) and friends drive, empower, and challenge us to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
  3. Blinders born of convenience or ignorance are as damning as empathy without action.
  4. Resilience comes in all grain sizes.

You'll have to read the novel to discover the context of these takeaways and others you might find.

  • Publication Date: April 7, 2023
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Cover Design: Fantasia Cover Designs
  • ASIN: B0BTXS8K26
  • ISBN: 979-8987146446

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On Earth Pact, no species is as feared as the Impundulu shifters of the United Wake of Benekal. For Fayola, a veteran nearing the end of her compulsory military service, being a soldier had never been more than reluctant duty. As she prepares for her final special operation, her goal remains the same: Complete her mission so she can return home to her father.

Tasked with rescuing a humanitarian doctor from a war zone, but not the orphaned children under her care, Fayola must decide how much she is willing to risk for the future she deserves.

Jwahir, a human in a nation of warring shifters, finds herself holed up in a medical clinic with other orphans, praying for a miracle or a painless death. But when an Impundulu soldier arrives, stoic and determined, but with a reserved tenderness she tries to hide, Jwahir knows she has met her Dela Eden-her savior.

However, people are not always who they seem, and crimes against children are too often ignored. For Jwahir, her true test of bravery begins, not in a medical clinic in a war-ravaged country, but in a bear shifter's cabin home in a peaceful forest.

For Fayola, twenty-five years of retirement planning changes in the blink of an innocent child's golden-brown eyes. But what will she do when her goodwill pact goes horribly wrong?

Content Warnings: on-page sex between consenting adults, on-page/implied child death, implied child sexual assault, talk of/threatening child physical assault, talk of suicide, talk of drug use, talk of sex slaves



The State of Namju

Fuxing City


“I’m not leaving my children here to die.”

Fayola watched as Dr. Teresa Pérez-Soto stomped past her and back into Peace Blossoms Orphanage. Or rather, she inwardly sighed at the doctor’s pointless theatrics as the woman reentered the two-story medical clinic. The sign on the brick building read: Peace Blossoms Clinic for Children. Someone, perhaps one of the youths Dr. Pérez-Soto claimed as her own, had used red spray paint to write Orphanage overtop of the last three words.

Clinic or orphanage, biological or adopted children, it doesn’t matter. My mission is clear. Extract Dr. Pérez-Soto and return her to her worried brother. A straightforward mission. My last. Finally.

Fayola scanned the area. Small, local businesses lined both sides of the abandoned street. Like the clinic, an old-fashioned sign affixed to the front of each business drew the eye to big, white letters outlined in black. One or more familiar pictorials—a bear paw, an elephant trunk, and a human hand—appeared under the name of each business. 

The clinic’s sign has all three images. Dr. Pérez-Soto services every kind of child in this country.

Twisted metal gates and broken glass from storefront windows littered the sidewalk in front of many businesses with paw and hand pictorials.

The calm stillness of this street won’t last. I can feel the vibrations. Their marching is like a building earthquake deep in Earth Pact’s core. The regiments will converge on this part of the city in an hour. That’ll be more than enough time to complete the extraction part of my mission. Whether she wants to or not, Dr. Pérez-Soto will be leaving with me.

Fayola tried the knob to the clinic, shaking her head when the door did not open. Did the doctor think her temper tantrum and a locked door would have her taking to the sky and failing to complete her mission?

Bam. Smash. Hinges snapped; the wooden door cracked in fours and crashed to the floor.

Stepping on pieces of the ruined door, Fayola strolled inside the clinic. Shafts of light from outside lit the foyer, bouncing off candle wax stuck to the floor and the face of a frowning Dr. Pérez-Soto.

“You broke my door.”

With the tip of her booted foot, Fayola pushed one of the chunks of wood out of her way. “Inconsequential.”

“It isn’t.” Light brown eyes lowered to Fayola’s glove-covered hands before settling on her black boots. “Did you do that with your hands or feet?”

“Inconsequential. We have less than an hour. Pack a bag and say your goodbyes.”

“I told you, I’m not going anywhere.”

Fayola stepped farther into the clinic. The foyer led to stairs to the right and two closed doors to the left. Although she could not hear the children, she could smell blood from a recent injury in the air.

For the second time in less than ten minutes, the doctor turned her back on her. Long dark hair trailed to wide hips and over a pink and white dress the same color as the blooms of the fifty-foot peace blossom tree she landed on upon arriving in northern Fuxing City. The tree had afforded her a safe location for reconnaissance. As always, her mission intel had been correct. Regiments from the Sunhung and Taepo herds were on the move.

Fayola had seen the civil war’s destruction; dead bodies left for ravager birds to pick over, buildings leveled to their rocky foundation, and crop fields burned to inedible ash.

No matter the place, war looks, smells, and sounds the same. Wars also wreak the same turmoil. Grief and heartache. Starvation and desperation.

A door from a room to Fayola’s left opened. A six- or seven-year-old girl, human, from the fragrant berry scent of her, peeked around the door. Rubbing golden-brown eyes and shuffling tiny feet, she made her way to Dr. Pérez-Soto. Wrapping thin arms around one of Dr. Pérez-Soto’s legs, the child buried a face as round as a ripe plum against the doctor’s thigh. “I’m hungry.”

One after the other, more children emerged from the open door, piling out and surrounding Dr. Pérez-Soto.

Orphans. Something else war leaves behind. Twenty-one of them, but not all are human. The first one out appears to be the youngest. The oldest are those twin girls holding hands. Fifteen or so. Bear shifters like Dr. Pérez-Soto. They share her almond-shaped eyes and straight dark hair. Those physical traits are typical of bear shifters from this region. But the twins’ skin has a warm undertone to Dr. Pérez-Soto’s coolness, neither of which changes how their blood would taste going down.

Fayola checked her tactical watch—a gift from Jelani. Fifty-five minutes before they converge on this small city. “Since the children are here now, the farewells can come first, then the packing. For your comfort, I suggest changing into pants.”

“Do you have no heart?”

“What I have is a mission to complete.” Fayola waved her hand at the gathered children, who watched her with a mix of curiosity and dread. “They are not my mission. You are. Come morning, nothing on this street will be left standing.”

“Or alive.”

Fayola took the two words as a rhetorical statement, as much as she did Dr. Pérez-Soto’s attempt at guilt. Neither altered her mission parameters, so she set her watch for thirty minutes and took up position at the foot of the stairs.

“That’s it? You have nothing else to say?” To her credit, Dr. Pérez-Soto did not argue her point—fruitless though it was—in front of the children. “Go through my office and back upstairs.”

“But—” the twins began.

“Do as I say. It will be fine.”

The twin with a healing cut across her forehead turned to Fayola. “Which kind are you?”

Fayola understood her question, despite having been stated with a vagueness typical of youth. “Inconsequential.”

The girl nodded; her eyes filled with a world-weary maturity unbecoming of a person so young. “We prayed for a Dela Eden.”

Dela Eden. I can’t be that for these children. They aren’t my mission, and one soldier is not enough to save twenty-two people. 

“What’s a Dela Eden?” the youngest child asked.

“A savior, but it doesn’t matter.” The twin with the scar took hold of the little girl’s hand. “She isn’t one. Not ours anyway.” She led the girl back into the room they’d exited. Their retreat was followed by the other children. Not one of them looked back, accepting life’s cruel fate with a grace she’d never seen in adults, much less in children.

No, not grace. Hopelessness.