Review of “Beauty of the Beast” (Fairy Tale Retellings #1) by Rachel L. Demeter

Demeter, Rachel. Beauty of the Beast. [United States]: Rachel L. Demeter, 2017. ISBN-13: 9781542972567. $13.95 USD. 

5 stars

As a longtime lover of both the original “Beauty and the Beast” tale and both of the Disney films, I was excited to find this book. And while my excitement dimmed somewhat when I noticed that this one did not have the magical elements, as some of the other historical romances that have attempted to adapt the tale have fallen flat, I found I took a chance on this book, and fell in love. This has enough of both the original story and the Disney version to please fans of both iterations, but it is  different enough to be original and worth the read.

I am normally not a fan of broody heroes, but Adam is a rare exception. He is such a wonderful person, and despite all that he has been through, and his urge at first to punish Isabelle and her father, you see him feel remorse, especially as things take a tragic turn and he is reminded of his own losses and how they impacted him. And Isabelle is a great partner for him, inspiring him to feel again, and opening him up to the world.

Demeter also should receive props for her development of the villain character, Claude Dumont, crafting someone who, while we hate for his behavior, can understand to an extent. As there has been some discussion in the Disney theory community regarding the way nature and nurture played a role in the way Gaston and the Beast with similar personalities going down two different paths, I like how she took this concept and fleshed it out by giving us more insight into who Dumont is, and how despite both of them dealing with darkness in their lives, we see Dumont and Adam making drastically different choices, due to the influences in their lives.

Review of “The Bear and the Nightingale” (Winternight Trilogy #1) by Katherine Arden

Arden, Katherine. The Bear and the Nightingale. New York: Del Rey, 2017. ISBN-13: 978-1-101-88593-2. $27.00 USD

4 stars

The synopsis of this book suggests a story that retells the Cinderella story, but Katherine Arden takes a different approach than most authors, borrowing from Russian history and folklore to create a compulsively readable and completely original historical fantasy novel, with well-written, flowing prose that will keep you turning pages.

Vasilisa is not your typical Cinderella. Despite the restrictions of the environment as a young woman in a hyper-religious society, she maintains a connection to the spirits that she grew up with, even as people in her life try to browbeat her into submission. And she doesn’t need a prince to save her, as she proves by the end of the novel…with promise of more adventures to come in both of the sequels. It is also refreshing that the story diverges from the Cinderella tale in that she seems to have a relatively close family, with the exception of the stepmother, and her siblings, especially Alyosha and Irina, seem to care about and support her.

However, I found the stepmother’s character to be a bit on the weaker side. She has her moments of cruelty and abuse, but the motivation behind it made her seem like a much weaker villain, even within the context of the time period, but didn’t present much to make her sympathetic to counteract that, leading me to wonder whether I was meant to feel largely ambivalent about her, and view the Church as the bigger villain, which is something of a cliche for historical novels that incorporate magic.