The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross
Berkley, 2019. Hardcover, 416 pages.
The Beast’s Heart is the latest retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story. Though this is in a genre in which I usually don’t review, let me explain why: The Beauty and the Beast story is my favorite fairy tale of all time. I’ve read the originals and numerous other renditions, including both of Robin McKinley’s (Beauty and Rose Daughter; I preferred the first) and the one by Cameron Dokey (Belle). Therefore, I just had to read this. Unlike the other retellings, this one is told from the Beast’s perspective instead of Belle’s.
The story opens with the backstory of the Beast’s life as a man and his early years as the Beast. These years tormented him. He considered himself lucky the day Isabeau’s father stumbled upon his castle. As in every version of the story, the Beast asks for the father to send his daughter after a rose is picked and like in the others, Isabeau chooses to come.
Each day, we see the struggles in the castle through the Beast’s eyes. The two struggle as first, before settling into a routine. Eventually, the magic mirror reveals itself and allows the Beast to watch in on Isabeau’s sisters and father back in their cottage. This allows the readers to see how Isabeau’’s absence affected her family and how they changes over the year the novel covered. This included how her sisters Marie and Claude rose to the challenges that faced them and bettered themselves. However, their delicate balance is tipped when Belle sees a painting of a man in the attic and begins to have vivid dreams that often leave her sleepless and troubled during the day. How will this change things at the castle?
Though it began slowly, The Beast’s Heart turned into a spellbinding novel. Though told from the Beast’s perspective, it was just as much Isabeau, Marie, and Claude’s story as well. That said, by using the Beast’s viewpoint, readers will have a chance to see the Beast’s internal changes which the other versions of the story lack and this helps to humanize him. And using the mirror to look in on Isabeau’s sisters help the Beast to see things he could change and assist with as they unknowingly taught him lessons. All of this draws the reader into the Beast’s plight and forwards the plot. In addition, he focus for each of these four main characters was how one’s struggles could make them better, so a life lesson had been taught as well. If a reader is interested in fairy tale adaptation, this novel would be a welcome addition because of this unique perspective.
Do you think you will read this novel? Have you read another fairy tale adaptation worth recommending?
This review is courtesy of a e-ARC from the First to Read Program. The expected publication date is February 12, 2019.