Title: The Beast’s Heart
Author: Leife Shallcross
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
I recieved an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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 . . .
Trigger warnings: manipulation, abusive behavior, harassment, voyeurism, dependency
The Beast has been plagued by a curse for so long that he has given up hope on any antidote. When a weary stranger trespasses on his territory, he doesn’t expect that he’d be able to see into his dreams. There he sees his youngest daughter and decides he wants to meet her. Under the guise of a punishment for attempting to steal a rose from the Beast’s garden, the Beast gives the traveler an ultimatum to bring his daughter to Beast’s château.
While the unique twist of seeing the retelling through the Beast’s perspectives, the tale lacked the enchantment of the original. This is due to a lack of development in the romantic interest’s characterization and problematic themes perpetuated by the Beast. The Beast, in words, was a gentleman. He tried not to coerce Isabeau against anything she did not want. He gave her as much of a choice as he felt he could. Yet even this behavior is problematic because it seemed as though the Beast was only doing as much as he felt he needed to win over Isabeau. Additionally, the Beast displayed stackerish behavior in how he watched her family through his magic mirror. This voyeurism felt ominous because not only did he did it very often, Isabeau was completely unaware of the Beast doing this.
The power dynamic clearly caused by how she came to him made it so that it is hard to tell how much of her actions were her own. (I would argue none of them. Isabeau’s self-preservation instincts made her acquiesce with his “requests”, short of his request to marry him.)
Furthermore, there was an unhealthy dynamic shown in that the two characters were content only when they were together. It showed the beginning of a codependent relationship. This is exacerbated by the Beast’s offense to her spending any prolonged time alone. The Beast took it personally. It’s completely unreasonable to expect that just because you enjoy someone’s company that you wouldn’t want some time by yourself. (Right, introverts?) Truthfully, I don’t remember much of what Isabeau did that made me feel it was a codependent relationship on her end. Although, it may have something to do with how she was relegated from being her family’s keeper to the Beast’s keeper. It takes away what few agency she had. Her character was otherwise too poorly developed for anything about her to stand out. I only recall the Beast’s problematic behavior because it caused a pit at the bottom of my stomach that this abuse was being masqueraded as romance.
The Beast’s Heart is a slow-paced story that is difficult to get into due to the excessive use of adjectives and flowery language to hide that there’s not much plot and bad characterization. Filled with abusive behavior and an unhealthy relationship, this is not a book I’d recommend to anyone.