Today’s book, The Beauty of the Wolf, has come along at the right time for me, it fits right in with my Retellings Reading Challenge. All the books for this challenge, so far, have been top notch and luckily I have yet to be disappointed.
In the age of the Faerie Queene, Elizabeth I, Lord Francis Rodermere starts to lay waste to a forest.
Furious, the sorceress who dwells there scrawls a curse into the bark of the first oak he fells:
A faerie boy will be born to you whose beauty will be your death.
Ten years later, Lord Rodermere’s son, Beau is born – and all who encounter him are struck by his great beauty.
Meanwhile, many miles away in a London alchemist’s cellar lives Randa – a beast deemed too monstrous to see the light of day.
And so begins a timeless tale of love, tragedy and revenge…
I will admit to struggling with this book at first, it is a bit of a departure to what I have been reading lately so it took me a while to get into the swing of the writing, which is in an old English style and can at times switch from exceptionally flowery to crass in the blink of an eye.
I stuck with it though because the concept sounded amazing, a beauty and the beast retelling but with reversal of the roles, and (judge me if you will) the cover is really pretty. I’m glad I did, I know that this book has had some very mixed reviews so far but I enjoyed it, there are a few things which I think meant it didn’t live up to its full potential but I still felt drawn back to the story.
I think first of all that I should put it out there that this is definitely an adult fairytale, it is dark and contains a lot of sexual references. I think I am perhaps quite lucky that I was so preoccupied with wondering about parts of the story whilst reading that I seemed to have missed a passage solely praising the male anatomy (there may have been one or two eye rolls when I was directed back to it). There were other times in the story though that I did notice the gratuitous use of sex or sexual references, I don’t have an aversion to sex but I do believe that in a story less is more and if it doesn’t serve a purpose then it’s grandstanding and it makes me wonder what the author is trying to achieve.
There are a lot of elements to this story, it is told through three main points of view the sorceress, the beauty and the beast, however, through the sorceress the reader also gets to hear the stories of other characters and it can take some getting used to. I quite enjoy a story that has multiple POV and appreciated the complexity of the plot, I do feel though that for a lot of people this will be a downfall.
There are a lot of threads to tie this story together and at times there were some points in the book that only half stitched in a thread that then fell away to nothing. When reading I didn’t think much of it because I expected at the end that everything would be tied up and for the most part it was but there were a few things I was left questioning, personally I feel like with this style of book it just needed to have slightly tighter plotting to stop that from happening.
I liked the worldbuilding, it is set between a country estate next to an enchanted forest and London, I think like with most books that have to set such a grand scene that some of the pace is lost at times but I’m used to it and because I expect it, it doesn’t really bother me. The contrast between the magic and power of the forest and the bustle and anonymity of the city really worked and helped to accentuate the differences between the characters that knew of magic.
There is a very mixed cast of characters in this book, a lot of them interesting but a few that were unnecessary. I feel like I needed a bit more of Beau and Randa to really get that connection, I think some of the other characters could have been sacrificed so that we could get more interaction between them, it did feel a little like their part of the story didn’t get its time to shine.
At the heart of this story are some really fascinating themes; beauty standards for women, gender and sexual fluidity, self-acceptance rather than changing to please others, the effect that the human race is having on nature; and the way the story weaves the original Beauty and the Beast tale into this entirely new creation is impressive, it’s just a shame that there are a few features of the book that detract from that.
There are still many stops that you can go and have a nosy at…
Big thanks to Lily Capewell and HQ Stories for inviting me to be part of the tour.