|Love fairy tales and mythology?|
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!
I wanted to read this book during A Week of Beauty and the Beast, but I was sick and it didn't happen. So instead, I'm hoping to scoot the review in now, ^^;;;
SO....LET'S TALK ABOUT BEAUTY OF THE BEAST!
Isabelle Rose, our "Beauty," loves her father. She's devastated that he's ailing and wants to help him recover in any way she can, even though she has no money for the medicine he so desperately needs. She is initially enchanted by our "Gaston," Vicomte Raphael Dumont, and agrees to marry him. It is only later that he shows his true, dastardly colors, but if Isabelle doesn't marry him, she won't get the money she needs to save her father. When her father insists on going to the annual Merchants' Fair with Isabelle, Isabelle hopes this is the chance they need to earn enough to break away from the Vicomte's iron grasp. The two of them are caught in a terrible storm, however, and become trapped at a dilapidated palace ruled by the former Prince Adam Delacroix.
Adam's family was murdered in cold blood, and Adam was almost killed as well. He has the burn marks and twisted scarring to remind him of the cost of his survival. He's now so deformed, everyone considers him to be a hideous beast, a monster. He's secluded from society and lives alone save for one former servant, Sebastian, who saved and still helps him. When Adam catches Isabelle's father trying to steal from him, he drags him to prison. Isabelle vows to do anything to save her father, even live in this soulless excuse for a home and become the Beast's mistress...
BEAUTY OF THE BEAST is a retelling for all the adults who grew up loving Beauty and the Beast and want to recapture the magic. It does this in a realistic way seen so infrequently in retellings, as most tend to rely more heavily on curses and magic to tell the story. I love when a fairy tale is grounded in reality. It feels like, Hey, maybe this could really happen! It also takes more work to take something magical and turn it ordinary, while still manipulating it into the conforms of a once-magical tale so that readers can still recognize it as a retelling. I really like that BEAUTY OF THE BEAST followed this route! There's also something, especially when it comes to Beauty and the Beast, that feels deeper when the deformity isn't one that will disappear when the magical curse is broken. Beast DOESN'T go back to looking gorgeous and amazing as a reward. This is Beast's permanent appearance, for better or worse, and Beauty has fallen in love irregardless! Beauty has maybe even found, well, beauty in the Beast. I love that Isabelle is constantly mesmerized by Adam's mismatched face. One half is perfect and one half is twisted. When you see something often enough, when you love someone enough, even ugliness can become beautiful. Not everyone can see that beauty, but you can, and that is more meaningful than anything and can give your loved one absolute confidence. These are battle scars. These are prizes for surviving. They shouldn't be frowned upon for being ugly. Sometimes, people become so confident in their scars that they want to keep them even if they CAN remove them, because they ARE trophies to show that one lived through something horrendous.
I'm instantly reminded of Kaitlyn Dobrow, who has some amazing YouTube videos featuring make-up tutorials despite the fact that she is now a quad-amputee. She is still fierce and amazing! In one of her videos (probably this one or this one? I forget because I watched these a while ago!!), she mentions that even when offered surgery to fix the extreme scarring left from her deathly battle with a rare form of meningitis, she wouldn't do it because these are her survival trophies. She is confident enough to wear them proudly, not to be ashamed of them. I love that this is a mental state that can be applied to the tale of Beauty and the Beast and remind readers going through similar situations that they are still beautiful despite what Society might say. That there are still people who can fall in love with you and love you FOR your scars, not in spite of them. And perhaps that's one of the things that resonates with me the most about this favorite fairy tale of mine, though I've never really considered it before. And perhaps that's why, of all the fairy tales out there, this is the one I also like the most in its "contemporary" form. I just really like this message lying within the story's heart!
I mean, this tale even frequently shows the FLIP side of beauty, where there is a "Gaston" character who is so outwardly perfect and prestigious and respected by Society. He's always deemed a perfect match for "the most beautiful girl in town." But he always has the most hideous, ugly heart. (Especially in this retelling! Whoo, the Vicomte is one vile, hideous human. His scenes made my skin crawl and it was such a relief to get Isabelle away from him!!) And really, what is true beauty and what is true monstrosity? Another reason I love this tale so darn much!!! It really just turns everything upside down and inside out and makes readers question what they think they know and teaches them to look deeper. I love it!!!
One thing that bothered me--and this is absolutely a me thing, because it always bothers me in books that are set centuries ago--is the age of the characters. To ME, I can suspend belief if a character is, say, 18-25 because that's very acceptable in today's terms, and it's weird to think of teenagers getting married. But back then? Most people WERE married and popping out kids under 18. The life expectancy was much shorter, as was middle-age. But so many books set in time periods past will make the main characters 25-35 and nobody bats an eyelash. Nobody calls them a spinster. They aren't outside the norm. I can see this happening, again, when it's outside the norm. But if often isn't. This is at least the third time just this year--which we're barely three months into--that I've seen this pop up. Our "Beauty," our "Beast," and our "Gaston" characters are ALL in their mid-30s. None have ever been previously married, etc. Nobody bats an eye at their ages. It's believable in our Beastly character, but the other two? Without anyone commenting on it? It stretches the imagination for ME. Again, a lot of people won't care or be bothered by it, especially with today's sensibilities to love and marriage, but it's something that always has bothered me in fiction.
The only other thing that bothered me was the fact that Adam was so much more experienced in the art of romance than he should have been. He's never even kissed a girl, let alone anyone else. He lives alone and hasn't had interaction with other people. Yet he kisses perfectly on his first try and seems to be teaching Isabelle some new tricks, even though she's the more experienced of the two. He's perfect at quipping comments laced with innuendo. He can taste and imagine Isabelle perfectly despite the no experience thing. I mean, I don't know about anyone else, but when I had never kissed anyone else, I was thinking about kissing more as a general thing, not as a he will taste like this and that kind of thing because it wasn't really anything I'd thought about in that context. Maybe if he'd been around a lot of people and heard a lot of bawdy comments, etc, but he wasn't. He was very young when he lost contact with the outside world. So again, this is probably just a ME thing, but it pulled me out of the story when I came across it.
Those were the only two things that pulled me out, though. For the most part, I was able to blow right through the story and root for the characters! I love when retellings are done in a realistic vein, rather than an enchanted one, and wish more books did this. I'd love to see more realistic fairy tale retellings from Rachel L. Demeter in the future!