This read was a bit of a mixed bag. I’m a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast, it was my favourite fairy tale as a child, I love the Disney version, I actively seek out retellings, hence why I read The Beast’s Heart. My love of the fairy tale is what kept me reading past the start of the book which was trying to say the least.
When I first picked this book up I didn’t know it was a debut, but the writing style definitely gave it away. Leife Shallcross’s prose was self-consciously superfluous, with every description in the first few chapters utilising every adjective possible, which made it a bit hard going to begin with.
Eventually, though, this over the top description fades away and we’re left with a much more simplified prose style that is more reminiscent of middle grade books. This made me second guess who this book was even aimed at but it is marketed as YA though I wouldn’t class it as such, it doesn’t meet most of the criteria of YA, and it seems to only be placed in YA because that’s where fairy tale retellings thrive.
I’m going to go into the plot a bit now so there will be some spoilers ahead.
Okay so, most fairy tale retellings have a twist, right? Little Red Riding Hood fights werewolves, The Princess decides to live with the dragon rather than be saved, The Little Mermaid fights off people polluting the sea and so on. The Beast’s Heart is told from the point of view of the Beast, Isabeau’s (Belle) sisters are not the spoiled brats in the original tale but become self sufficient and have a much more interesting romantic arc than Isabeau, and there is a hint that the fairy that cursed the Beast was in love with his grandmother.
Having the story told from the Beasts POV was uncomfortable, but that made it a little more interesting at least. I was disappointed that the sisters were much more well rounded characters than Isbeau but I chalked this up to the fact that the Beasts narrative voice was so infatuated with Isabeau that she became just another boring Mary-Sue.
The thing that irked me the most was the fairy’s motives for cursing the Beast. Apparently the fairy loved the Beasts grandmother, an idea I liked as it makes sense that the fairy would know of the Beast before cursing him. Her motives were questionable though, apparently the Beast’s cold heart and his unwillingness to love (due to his emotionally abusive father who he watched abuse many women) caused his grandmother pain, and so the fairy cursed the Beast to wear his beastly form until someone loved him.
This is honestly ridiculous. I just couldn’t see this motive giving the fairy any closure at all about her love dying, she wasn’t presented as particularly evil so I can’t see her as the cruel sidhe type fae to take children leave changelings etc. Not to mention she laid no such curse on his horrible abusive father but instead laid a curse on his abused son? This along with Isabeau’s father attempted suicide happening then literally never being mentioned again I found the whole approach to mental health a bit surreal.
I did enjoy the book in some places, it was sweet, and I was looking forward to seeing the love story unfold. However, the ending seemed to happen all at once, much like the Disney version, and everything was wrapped up in a couple pages, which is satisfying on screen but falls very flat on the page.
Honestly, I’d recommend this book to any young kids that are particularly into Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, as it’s almost identical, but aside from that I really didn’t get much out of it.
Thanks to the author and NetGalley for giving me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review