First Lines: We always know before the change comes. When a storm approaches, we feel it in the thickness of the air, the tension in the earth awaiting the blanket of snow. We feel the moment the wind changes direction. We sense a shift of power when it is coming. Tonight there is hunger in the air.
ARC ALERT! I received a copy of this from Edelweiss (a great website for getting ARCs) and this doesn’t officially release until March 14, 2017. You’ve got about three months, so mark your calendars. Now let’s get down to business about this Beauty and the Beast retelling.
Yeva has grown up with aristocrats and high society, but nowhere feels like home so much as the outdoors, where she can hunt and be away from people. So when Yeva’s father loses everything in a risky business move, it’s bittersweet for her. Forced out of society, Yeva and her sisters and father take to an old hunting lodge in the middle of the woods where she doesn’t have to make small talk or fend of suitors. But losing his business may have cost her father his mind. When her father goes missing, Yeva knows she needs to hunt the cunning beast her father was obsessed with hunting before he disappeared. As she hunts him back to his valley and deserted castle, she has to wonder who is going to survive, her or the beast?
This is not your Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. This is not Robin McKinley’s Beauty, full of romance even as it seems to be a little darker than Disney. This is more like Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses. This is actually quite dark at times and feels more like a parable than a fairy tale. And I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever.
I loved that this retelling not only pulled in virtually all of the elements that I love so much about the original story (a girl trying to save her father, a cursed beast, character development as they change, etc.), but it also managed to reflect the time in which it was written (i.e. now). Yeva is not a pushover of a girl, waiting for a prince to come rescue her. She’s strong both physically and mentally, but also the dystopian feel to the story makes it seem more realistic and dangerous. It’s a real shift from a lot of other Beauty and the Beast stories.
The story is set in a land called Rus (which I’m about 90% confident is supposed to be Russia based on names and weather). The setting really helped make the story that much scarier because of all the snow, the dense forests, the abandoned castles and lodges, and even some of the creatures Yeva runs into. I’m telling you, Spooner does a really nice job upping the creepy factor in little, innocuous ways that just sneak up on you after a while.
I’ve already mentioned Yeva a little, but I just want to reiterate that she has most of the same characteristics of every Belle/Beauty that I’ve come to love. She’s clever and persistent, a combination that sometimes makes her come off as arrogant in this book, but for good reason. The Beast, however, is a bit different. Yes, he still retains a lot of the same characteristics as well, but this Beast is truly dangerous. He can be ruthless and divided on what he wants, which makes him dangerous if Yeva pushes him just right. He’s not a romantic hero, but an animal at times. You can just feel that he could absolutely tear Yeva to shreds if he so pleased.
Speaking of romance, I hope you aren’t here for a grand love story because this isn’t it. This is a revenge story, a parable about the dangers of wanting too much, a story of discovering what one truly desires. You’re not going to see grand gestures of love here, though there are still elements of it. It’s not completely gone, but it’s way different than you’re expecting.
While I more or less adored nearly this entire book, I wasn’t completely thrilled with the ending. It wraps up too quickly and, for me, had too many plot holes in the last chapter or two. I know this is supposed to be the first book in a series, but these didn’t seem like the kind of things that will be mentioned again in a later book. I needed more of a sense of closure.
Overall, though, I generally found this a treat and I’m really curious to see where the next book in the series goes.