Author: Leife Shallcross
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Paperback, 416 Pages
Publication: February 12, 2019 by Berkley
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.
I am the Beast.
The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time.
My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded.
My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again.
And now I might lose her forever.
Beauty and The Beast is one of the most beloved and well-known fairy tale in the world. Many people have drawn inspiration from the story; having it adapted, retold or re-imagined time and time again over the years. But one thing that has never change was the point of view. It has always been from the female perspective, from Belle (Isabeau)'s point-of-view. Until now. Shallcross gives readers an intimate and in-depth look inside the Beast’s mind; where we will finally see what he thought of his curse and his initial impression of Isabeau.
I was excited when I found out The Beast’s Heart was a Beauty and The Beast re-imagining from the Beast’s perspective. I’ve always wondered when someone was going to get around to writing one and lo’ and behold Shallcross delivered. But the excitement isn’t without some trepidation. My only concern and hope was that we didn’t get a repeat of the captive scenario again. That part of the original story has always rubbed me the wrong way and I hoped any and all future retelling would address it differently. Many did not, but Shallcross did. Isabeau ended up at the Beast’s castle in pretty much the same way as she always has, which was in replacement for her father. However, she remains a “guest” at the Beast’s castle of her own free-will. The Beast clearly gives Isabeau a choice to leave once she met him or stay with him for the duration of a year to keep him company. Isabeau seeing how sad and lonely the Beast was agrees to stay for the year.
If you’re expecting a Disney version of Beauty and The Beast then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. But if it’s a complete new and fresh take on the story that you want, then you’ve found it. Not only are readers getting a new perspective on the fairy tale but Shallcross expanded on both Beast and Isabeau’s backstory including more characters and added her own spin on the magic and curse. In the original and various retelling, there were two to three characters at most. In The Beast’s Heart readers will meet Isabeau’s father and two sisters and various people that come into the sisters’ lives. The story jumps back and forth between what occurs at the castle with Beast and Isabeau and back at the cottage with Isabeau’s family as they adjust to life without Isabeau.
There was no villain in The Beast’s Heart, not like Gaston in the Disney version and not unless you consider the Fairy that cursed the Beast as a baddie. Instead the story focused on the characters’ relationships over the duration of a year. Readers watched as each character grew, developed and reacted to the changes and obstacles thrown their way. While I normally like action in my story, I also appreciated the character driven approach that Shallcross took. There was never a detail too small or insignificant that Shallcross didn’t add. Some may enjoy reading about the sisters’ mundane tasks like learning a new recipe or finding a potential suitors but those that crave more excitement will likely be bored as the story continues in a monotonic tone till the very end. I am in the former category.
All in all, The Beast’s Heart was quite enjoyable and better than I expected. The pacing was without a doubt slow and I often found myself putting the book down but even then, I kept thinking about the characters and was eager to find out what happened next. The story held my interest from beginning to end, when I did and didn’t read, which doesn’t happen often. I think true Beauty and the Beast and fairy tale fans will love this new take on the classic. Overall, The Beast’s Heart was a solid debut and a re-imagining worth reading.