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“I wish I could make her see any amount of money was only the least of her virtues.”
― Leife Shallcross,
It’s not often I get excited by story I’ve read a thousand times, but Shallcross has written an incredibly beautiful book that puts a new twist on a classic tale. The Beast’s Heart is based on the story of Beauty and the Beast, my all time favourite fairytale, so I had a lot of expectations having read so many versions and re-tellings. I can without a doubt say she smashed them all to pieces and built a thing of beauty from it. I loved reading this book, mainly due to the biggest change she’s made to the story;
THE BOOK IS TOLD FROM THE BEASTS PERSPECTIVE!
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I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.
I am the Beast.
The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time.
My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded.
My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again.
And now I might lose her forever.
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The Beast’s Heart lays bear everything I did and didn’t know I wanted to hear from the beast. Told exclusively from his perspective we are privy to his deepest, most vulnerable self which sheds a whole new light on his actions and behaviour in the pursuit of love and freedom.
If you haven’t read it go read it now because there will be spoilers ahead.
Shallcross adds a number of original twists to the classic story which I loved. The fact that the beast simply asks to Isabeau to stay, rather than imprisoning her is a pleasant change and sets a very different tone in the beginning of their friendship. She promises him a year, there’s no force in her staying. I also enjoyed the fact their relationship grows much more organically over a year, feeling less rushed and unrealistic that other versions I’ve read. They spend time each day together, Isabeau playing music and the beast reading to her, and it paints a rather endearing picture of their friendship.
In addition to their story is the story of the family Isabeau left behind, which we follow through the beast’s magic mirror. We get to see how they are affected by everything that has happened and how they cope with the changes in their life without Isabeau. It’s both sad and hopeful, as her sisters learn to stand on their own two feet, find themselves engaged to kind people and grow up in a way that really redeems some of their earlier attitudes and behaviour.
I have to add however the story is certainly darker and more emotionally complex as well, touching a lot on mental health issues with some triggering scenes. Both the beast and Isabeau become depressed at various stages and struggle with their emotions which leads to a number of moments that are uncomfortable to read. That being said I’m glad those heavier scenes were written, as they provide real insight to the emotional toll that is often neglected in re-tellings placed on the main characters.
I really enjoyed this book, possibly because I’m a sucker for this classic story, but I would recommend it if you want to read something that is different and unique in the plethora of beauty and the beast stories out there. Shallcross writes a beautiful story of loss, love and redemption. I could’ve stayed in the magical world she creates for a lot longer than the pages I held.