My rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased Hardbound
Publication Date: March 2017
Point of View: 3rd Person
Genre: Fantasy Romance
It's Beauty and the Beast Month here on my website this April! And what better way to kick off my first themed month than with this HIGHLY anticipated Beauty and the Beast retelling, which only just hit the market last month?
I will say though, I did kind of waffle as to whether I should give this book 3 or 4 stars. As you can see, 3.5 stars won out in the end. Here are my thoughts . . .
WHAT I LOVED
This book had a bit of an old school YA fantasy style to it. It reminded me of Robin McKinley or Juliet Marillier in tone. It was elegant, carefully thought-out, symbolic, and moody. A bit of a contrast with that cover, if I'm honest. The cover gave me the impression of something much more lively than I got. But in many ways that's a good thing. Once I got over the jarring to my expectations, I liked the book I found myself holding.
The atmosphere was beautifully depicted. I really felt the cold and wildness of the forest . . . and more than that, I felt the magic in a powerful way that I haven't experienced in many of the more overtly exciting books I've read recently. There was a depth and authenticity to this magic that was so strangely believable, partly because it was so surreal.
I really enjoyed the blending of the Russian folklore and fairy tales into the classic Beauty and the Beast theme. I was somewhat familiar with the story of "Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf," and I enjoyed seeing how it tied in with the unfolding mystery surrounding our Beast.
I appreciated ENORMOUSLY that Yeva's sisters and friend Galina were treated as worthy characters in their own right! Just because they aren't vicious hunters with a longing for the forests doesn't make them lesser people! They're simply different. And that's okay in this book! So many YA books these days seem to think that a "strong heroine" needs to be surrounded only by lesser characters, perhaps to make her seem stronger. Meagan Spooner allows people to have different interests and different strengths, and thus her world is more developed and interesting. Yeva's interest as a character is not lessened. In fact, I liked her so much more because of her endearing relationship with her sisters.
And I actually ended up kind of liking of the love-triangle that developed. I don't want to give away spoilers, but what could have ended up being a story-line I rolled my eyes over was handled with surprising grace and, I thought, contributed a nice dash of drama.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE SO MUCH
I know I'm not the only person saying it . . . but this book is slooooow to start. The writing is beautiful, which is what kept me reading, and I felt certain there would be a big pay-off if I stuck with it. I'm fine with a slow opening if I feel the pay-off is big enough! (See my similar thoughts on Three Dark Crowns.) But in this case, I can't say I ever felt like the pay-off was there. It got more exciting for a bit . . . and then it fizzled. Then it got a bit more exciting . . . then fizzled again. It just never really seemed to get going!
Again, part of the problem might have been my own expectations. I was expecting an action adventure story based on the premise and cover. But this was much more of a poetic art-piece. Once I came to understand that, I liked it significantly better, allowing it to just be what it is. But it took some time for me to adjust.
Also, I never really bonded to the main characters. I just felt kind of distant from Yeva. Maybe because I found her a bit difficult to relate to. Maybe it was simply the style of writing. I couldn't say what it was exactly, but I never felt her as a character the way I wanted to. And the Beast, though I really wanted to love him, just never seemed to open up as a character.
Don't get me wrong! I did ultimately feel invested in their story and wanted to see them somehow, against all odds, achieve their happy ending. But it wasn't so much about them as about my own curiosity to see how it would turn out.
I don't want to bash this book. Really, it's a beautiful book that fully deserves any raving reviews it gets. I just didn't fully work for me. I found myself feeling a bit let-down when I came to the final page and closed the book. I wanted a book I would LOVE. I got a book I liked.
Still, all things considered, it was a good read and an adventure I'm glad I went on.
And my Beauty and the Beast Month is continuing with the intriguing Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay and the delightfully zany Masque by W.R. Gingell. Looking forward to seeing how these authors handle their interpretations of the classic tale!
Don't forget--every book I review this month is a potential Book of the Month winner! I'll be giving away AT LEAST two books at the end of this month: my Book of the Month and my Cover of the Month. To be eligible for the giveaway, all you have to do is sign up for my mailing list. So if you are a fan of all things Beauty and the Beast, I do recommend you do that! You can see from the image above that I've got some great reads in the works . . . if I can manage to fit them all in!