The Beast's Heart
A luxuriously magical retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in seventeenth-century France--and told from the point of view of the Beast himself.
I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.
I am the Beast.
He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company—until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.
Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse . . .
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Retellings
Author: Leife Shallcross
Paperback, 416 pages
Published February 12th 2019
Publishing House: Berkley
The most enduring romance...
The Beast's Heart is so beautiful. It is the most intricately written retelling full of longing, dreaming, romance and heartache. From the Beast's point of view, this stunning novel reveals the innermost feelings of a man cursed to find true love while trapped in a beast's body. Perhaps a story you find mirrored in many other stories and fairy tales, usually it is a curse that sends a princess to sleep to await love's true kiss or some other way to free a forced upon entrapment.
The Beauty and The Beast is set in France in the mid-1700s and is one of the most well known and retold tales throughout the ages. I am not aware if it has ever been done the way Shallcross has created this achingly tantalizing slow burn retelling, but it is stellar and not to be missed.
Most of the tale does not veer off the original as I know it. There were differences in Isabeau's sisters' lives and there were no magical visible servants in the form of candlesticks or brooms etc. However, magic was implied as dinner was always served, clothes always laid out and the fire lit in the evenings and so on. I have watched/read a few variations on this but The Beast's Heart follows the main premise with few small liberties to fit the flow of beast's point of view.
At first, the reader is introduced to Beast's situation, his curse, and his miserable loneliness. As the tale goes and Isabeau is joining him in the castle, the real development of their friendship and liking begins. Beast has been smitten and in love with Isabeau from the moment he laid eyes on her. His feelings deepen every day as they spend time reading in the library, converse, play chess or instruments and walk the gardens. Beast puts himself forth in the most vulnerable and true ways, but he suffers her rejection of love over and over again. Isabeau is lost in thoughts many a time that it makes her ill and homesick.
As a reader, you garner glances at what Isabeau might be going through by her outward descriptions, but it is the Beast's mind that will capture your heart. His loyal, friendly and concerned feelings for Isabeau are heartwrenching to read about. There never was a love truer. In his agonizing rejection, he holds her to the light, uplifts, praises and continues to love enduringly. To me, this is such a lost art in a way we love one another. It will speak to the romantic at heart and the beast has mine.
Myself, I have always loved the Beast even before this rendition. The main reason for that is the idea not to judge character by a person's appearance. Too many times it is simply so that if we really open our eyes, we can be captivated by he unseen or unveiled. The 'Don't judge the book by its cover' metaphor is something I try to live by every day. There is too much hidden beauty in this world...and most don't take the time to look, listen or do attentively.
This book will appeal to those who want to feel again...to those hopeless romantics, to those that need to feel that pang and pain in their chest again to know they still can.
It's aching, it's wrenching, it's sad, it's happy and more.
The ending is a sweet commencement to Beast's pure, gentlemanly modesty and tribute to love.
...And I have woken from the everyday numb mundaneness to feel again.
Thank you, Beast.