My rating: 5 of 5 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased eBook
Publication Date: February 2015
Publisher: W.R. Gingell
Point of View: 1st Person Heroine
Genre: Fantasy Romance
I went into this one thinking I would like it. I read the first few chapters and thought I was going to be disappointed. Then, by the time I turned the last page . . . I realized that I didn't just like it. I LOVED it.
WHAT I LOVED
This book is just nuts! Yes, it's a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," so, you know, you kind of think you know what you're going to get. And it wasn't that AT ALL. It was hilarious and unexpected and magical and romantic and . . . you know what? It reminded me the most of Diana Wynne Jones since I last read Diana Wynne Jones. If you've read my "about me" page, you know I'm always looking for the next book that will give me at least some of the Howl's Moving Castle feels I love so well. THIS BOOK finally did that!
Lady Isabella was a riot. She could be a little exhaustingly herself sometimes, but after I got used to her incredibly larger-than-life personality, I find myself thoroughly enjoying her point-of-view.
The magic was great. It was natural and intuitive, without a whole lot of specific development, but it read really well, really convincingly. I have to admit, I LOVED that Isabella was not magical. She had to be clever to solve her own problems, not falling back on magical abilities. She didn't stand out as a character because she is the Super Special endowed with Super Special Abilities. She stood out because of her own personality, determination, and humor.
I actually was starting to think the book wasn't a real Beauty and the Beast retelling for a little while. You can't have Beauty and the Beast without at least SOME variation on the heroine's selfless exchange for her father as the beast's prisoner. But then . . . oh, my. Ms. Gingell pulled it off, and it totally fit with her world and her characters, and I was just blown away! I had been fully prepared to mark the book down, but the way that part of the story was done instead forced me to mark the book way up!
Also, let me just say that I really loved how vibrant all the side characters were. Lady Isabella is SO over the top, I half expected everyone else to pale by comparison. Instead, this author pulled off the miraculous and managed to give her whole cast sparkling life equal to that of her heroine. I loved Vadim and Keenan. I adored the Beast Lord (and can I just say that I loved that she made me love him WITHOUT him being all tortured by his curse and everything. Yes, he's cursed, but he doesn't let the curse define him. So great!)
I would be very happy to read a book about Isabella's sister Susan, and I am quite eager to pick up the book about Melchior and Annabel (which is coming later this month). And, even though I am well in the midst of my Beauty and the Beast Month and have a bazillion more Beauty and the Beast stories to read in the next few weeks, I went ahead and purchased Spindle, another one of W.R. Gingell's fairytale retellings, which will be waiting for me come May!
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE SO MUCH
I do want to give readers a word of warning . . . those first few chapters are a bit exhausting. It takes some doing, getting used to Lady Isabella's perspective and W.R. Gingell's writing style. The style and approach is so different from anything else I've been reading lately, so at first I wasn't even sure I liked it. I did like it . . . I LOVED it . . . but I had to adapt to it first. So I do urge you to give it some time. Don't leap to a quick judgment.
And honestly, though Lady Isabella is ultimately a plus for this story, she can be a bit of a negative too. Her relentlessly cheerful attitude even in the face of grisly murders can come across as callous or cavalier by turns. Sometimes it made me struggle to like her. Granted, the book is told 1st person, so you have a sense that she is painting the story to hide some of her deeper, darker feelings. She controls her own narrative, after all. But I would have liked to see a little bit more real reaction from her to some of the deaths, several of which were REALLY sad.
And yeah . . . for such a funny book, there are quite a few very horrible murders. It ultimately all works, but sometimes I found myself a bit jarred by the incessantly bright style coupled with the incredibly dark subject matter.
Nevertheless, I'm not going to knock a star off for any of these critiques, because ultimately they were minor quibbles and definitely more about personal preference then about anything I think the author should have done differently. The author (if you're out there in the wide world reading this, Ms. Gingell) simply needs to write more amazing stories EXACTLY the way she wants to, without regard to any critiques from me or anyone, because she has a completely WONDERFUL writing voice that finally, finally, FINALLY gave me some of that Diana Wynne Jones feel I've been looking for!
So that ended up being book 2 of my Beauty and the Beast Month. I was planning to read Of Beast and Beauty next, but Masque caught my interest and held it, so I shuffled up the order a wee bit. I am well into Of Beast and Beauty now, though, and really enjoying it . . . though in a VERY different way from Masque, let me tell you! (Hard to believe they are both retellings of the same fairytale!)
And don't forget--Every book I read this month is a possible Book of the Month winner! At the end of the month, I'll be giving away a copy of my Book of the Month and Cover of the Month to one lucky mailing list subscriber. So be sure to subscribe if you want a chance to win some amazing Beauty and the Beast retellings!