The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

Beast1After a rather crazy month of May I’m pretty much dedicating the month of June to catching up with all my errant reviews.

The Beast’s Heart is a retelling of my favourite fairytale – Beauty and the Beast.  It’s a rather beautifully written love story told from the perspective of the Beast.

I can say immediately that I enjoyed this book very much.  The style of writing is a perfect mix of beautiful description and bewitching storytelling and it’s a tale that I already know and love.  I have a couple of little issues that kept this from going from a good read to a great one but overall this was a lovely story that I devoured in a couple of sittings.

I won’t go into the plot too much.  I’m fairly sure that most people know the storyline for Beauty and the Beast and for the most part The Beast’s Heart is a faithful rendition that takes the opportunity to give us the Beast’s perspective.

We start off with the Beast living wild in the forest, terrorising the other animals until he remembers his humanity and the curse that brought him so low.  After he recalls his past he returns to his home, a fantastic and crumbling chateau that is also cursed. The whole place is bewitched, it has it’s own seasons, the gardens can change at will and the house has it’s own personality being able to change from a place of warmth and comfort to one that is hostile and unwelcoming depending on it’s own feelings as events unfold.  Eventually, following the natural course of the fairytale Isabeau comes to stay with the Beast after an agreement is reached that she will stay for the duration of one year.

Gradually the two form a sort of friendship and fall into a daily pattern however their friendship is hampered by the secrets that they both withhold from each other and a general lack of openness.

What I particularly liked about this was the style of writing.  This story lends itself so well to the gothic and the author has a lovely way with words that evokes the classics.  The descriptions and attention to detail are really well executed and I also particularly enjoyed the way the story splits between the time spent at the Chateau and the glimpses of Isabeau’s family and the lives they are now living, which we are able to witness alongside the Beast using his magical mirror. Isabeau’s sister’s both have their own storylines going on that help to break things up nicely whilst at the same time increasing the tension. I particularly liked that the nature of the two sisters was slightly different here.  Yes, they relied heavily on Isabeau but to an extent the fact that she looked after them so thoroughly left them without the will to try things for themselves.  When Isabeau left they had to cope and in doing so their characters flourished.  Much as Isabeau needed more from her life so did the two sisters need more from theirs.

This is undoubtedly a love story, which I was expecting going in to the read. It focuses strongly on emotions with the Beast’s loneliness and desperation seeping onto every page.  He despairs of his current form, he can’t imagine how Isabeau can ever love him and yet every day he persists in asking her to marry him – even though he can see how unhappy it makes her.

The issues I had with this book related to two different things.  Firstly, the nature of the Beast’s curse – which was changed slightly but I’m not quite sure why – and in fact it made the whole cursing seem a little unfair to me.  The other thing I felt was a lack of ‘beastliness’ from the Beast.  To be honest, he was just too damned nice, always charming.  Always trying too hard.  I realise that he doesn’t want to scare Isabeau away but I almost felt like shaking him at one point.  There was one part of the book where the altercations between the two became a bit tedious because of the lack of somebody having a bit more bite or backbone about them.  Of course, don’t get me wrong,  I can see the motivations for the Beast’s good behaviour but I think I expected every now and again for his animal nature to get the better of him and perhaps we’d witness a teeny outburst.

Fortunately there was nothing that really spoiled the read for me, just a short spell that could have become a little stilted but for the alternate chapters spent with Isabeau’s family.

On the whole I enjoyed reading from the Beast’s pov.  The writing was quite captivating and rich with a delicious gothic vibe and I would certainly read more from this author.  But – if love stories aren’t your thing – be aware that that is the major gist of the story here.

I received a copy from the publisher courtesy of Netgalley.  My thanks for the copy and apologies for the tardiness of this review.  The above is my own opinion.


19 Responses to “The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    While love stories might not be my cup of tea, I would read this one because it’s such a classic that I cannot, in all fairness, pass it by… And that cover would draw me to the book anyway! 🙂

  2. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Sounds like it could be interesting

    • @lynnsbooks

      Probably not for everyone I’ll admit – definitely a love story and quite descriptive but I enjoyed it.
      Lynn 😀

  3. waytoofantasy

    Oh, I’ll have to add this to my list, I love Beauty and the Beast retellings.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I know – I’m a real pushover for fairytale retellings.
      Lynn 😀

      • waytoofantasy

        Same! One of the reasons I’m a huge Robin McKinley fan. And Mercedes Lackey. And a bunch of others, lol. 🙂

  4. Tammy

    I love Beauty and the Beast retellings but I would have to agree, I like my beasts more fierce. It sounds like there wasn’t much tension.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, it’s odd. Because this was such a faithful retelling – you already know the ending really. But, I think the Beast felt tense for sure!
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Ah, B&tB retellings are my weakness! This sounds like it has a couple of issues that will bug me too, but I can’t help it…I wants it. Sigh, Lynn, you’re killing my TBR here!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I just love B&tB – it is definitely a weakness. This is very much a love story and the writing is lovely. I had a couple of issues but still glad to have read it.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Kathy @Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    A Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beast is kind of a gentleman (gentlebeast?) is, I admit, kind of intriguing, because I think a lot of the retellings confuse the Beast’s anger management issues with sexiness. Buuut I still want a little bit of “beastliness” as well. 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha yes – I don’t like the whole ‘anger’ is sexy thread but I kind of felt he was a proper pushover and wanted him to have more a voice or opinion even. It was still quite a lovely love story and beautifully written – but, I do like the flowery prose.
      Lynn 😀

  7. jessicabookworm

    Ooo your thoughts on this has left me torn! While I don’t mind a bit of romance in my reading, I am not a huge fan of romance as a genre in itself… but then I love the idea of Beauty and the Beast from the point-of-view of the beast!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s quite a lovely read tbh, I think you would probably enjoy it. It’s not a bodice ripper type of romance, more a getting to know you type of affair.
      Lynn 😀

      • jessicabookworm

        HAHA ‘not a bodice ripper type of romance’ 😛 A getting to know each other type of romance sounds much more my kind of thing. 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        Exactly. I actually thought of you when I read this and think you will like it. It’s quite beautifully done, and emotional – there’s a tiny little element of slower pacing at a certain point but it doesn’t last long or spoil the read.
        Lynn 😀

      • jessicabookworm

        Thank you – I have put this on my wish list 🙂

  8. Friday Face Off : “thus with a kiss I die” | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross and here are the covers – looking at these now I was hopeful that one of the roses would be heart shaped, alas, they are not – but red roses for Valentine’s Day – it works doesn’t it? Again, as I’m using a fairly recent read there aren’t lots of covers again this week: […]

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