Wow. I am blown away by this remarkably haunting novel. It’s not a simple fairytale retelling. It explores the depths of pain and happiness, darkness and light. A story that will stay with me.
Isabelle makes a deal with the devil in order to keep her father healthy and her stepsisters cared for. But she’s not happy and even her blind father can see this. When her father asks her to take him to the Merchant’s Fair, Isabelle knows this is it. Her chance for them to start a new life. Only her father gets deathly ill and the only house for miles around is a decrepit castle.
Adam lives in solitude. His scars are much more than skin deep, and he’s in no hurry to join the land of the living. Perhaps not at all. That changes one night when Isabelle comes along with her fiery spirit and her enchanting voice and suddenly, Adam’s having erotic fantasies and wanting that light for himself. He makes a bargain with her. If she stays, she stays for good. But things get complicated and sometimes, love works in mysterious ways.
“A strange haze rolled down the dirty pathway, which snaked through the vast forest in milky ribbons. Above head, the sky appeared black, oily, slicker than ink.”
I don’t think I’ve been blown away by the pure, dreamlike quality to a story’s language before. Beauty of the Beast swept me into the story so thoroughly that I didn’t come back until the very last page. While it is a fairytale retelling, it didn’t just rehash the Beauty & the Beast storyline. Instead, it captured its essence. Some things stayed the same which made me grin because I loved them, but others were so different and unique. Such ingenue was interwoven in this story.
Our main heroine is Isabelle. She has such a kind heart and an energy to her, but she’s determined to protect her ill Papa no matter the cost. Isabelle’s on the run from a dastardly suitor when she meets Adam for the first time. This is where her colors truly shine. The man is hiding in his cloak and in the darkness of his castle, and sure, Isabelle does have a healthy dose of fear. Who wouldn’t coming up against the “beast?” But Adam also tries to shut her out though the weather is fierce and her father is sick. She gives him an “I don’t think so,” and from there I was gone for her.
“His was a face of inconsistencies. Complex. Damaged. Predatory. And more than a bit intriguing.”
Then there’s Adam himself, our hero, shrouded in mystery. I was enthralled with his character. He’s badly scarred and has shut himself away because of it. He has the most tragic past, and I cried for him. There’s so much darkness inside him, but when Isabelle comes in with her streaming light, he wants to keep that part for himself. Adam does that in the only way he knows which is to demand it. Little by little, Adam’s lost in emotion for her and he opens up. The glimpse inside this man is spectacular. Music also plays a huge part in this book, making the story even more enchanting. It transcends the fairytale atmosphere and added such a depth to the characterizations. This is also how Adam survives, how he makes it year after year. It brings the true magic to this story—art as a form of love.
This was like an epic, gothic novel from decades past. We are catapulted to a different time where descriptions seized you and true love in all its dramatic glory was revered. I couldn’t believe how invested I was in their story, and I don’t think I can justify it in words.
The images throughout were haunting and beautiful. They’re so well done, and unique, and awe-inspiring. I highlighted half the novel with beautiful imagery. The downside to it were that some of the descriptions were overused, pulling me from the story. It’s why I rated this one 4.5, but I just adored this take on a fairytale. It’s not overdone, and it doesn’t follow the same tried and true trajectory. I loved the ingenious elements she incorporated and the inside peek into a damaged psyche.
“She’d never forgotten those beautiful words, which seemed to have been spun from an unworldy magic. The stories had planted themselves in her heart—and throughout the years, they’d blossomed into a throbbing desire.”
I’m going to reread this one because I feel there’s still so much to discover in it. There’s much more here than one read through can capture. At the end of this retelling, it becomes a story of imperfections and the beauty to be found in them. It’s love conquering all, that childlike dream that morphs into an adult yearning to be accepted and loved for who we are. I can’t wait to see what else this author will cook up.
*This is crossposted on the Alpha Book Club. You can find my reviews here.*