A beautiful retelling of the beloved fairytale set against the reality of 17th century France. As with Lisa Jensen’s poignant Beast: A Tale of Love, there is an unexpected twist to the ending. This debut novel told from the Beast’s point of view is poetical, imaginative, and inventive.
Parts of the story remain overly attached to classic versions of this tale: the Beast’s despondency often comes off as emotionally manipulative, and the end-goal for all of the women in the novel is portrayed as marriage. But Shallcross does well to use the magic mirror as a device giving the reader a window into the social world of Isabeau’s family; unlike in the original tale, Isabeau’s sisters redeem themselves, becoming contented, hard-working women. Isabeau and her two sisters provide the emotional core of Shallcross’ retelling, and the emotion-rich romances and family relationships of this book are what keep it so compelling.
Dense and discomfiting ... The original tale’s abusive subtext becomes unpleasant text in this version: men habitually call stalking 'courtship,' women romanticize Isabeau’s abduction, and Isabeau—never developed past blond hair and compulsive caretaking—is desperately depressed. Julien’s occasional moments of self-awareness swiftly yield to selfishness and violence. What results is a skin-crawling, obsessive quest to manipulate love from a kidnapped woman. Shallcross’s lush imagery cannot redeem a plot mired in self-pitying, romanticized abuse.