Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.
So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.
Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?
Inches from her face was a nightmarish visage, snarling fangs and red-gold eyes. She screamed, every muscle going rigid as she tried to struggle free, but claws dug into her skin on all sides, giving her no room to move. She stretched out with one arm anyway, ignoring the tearing pain of it, fingers brushing the hilt of her fletching knife.
“YOU GAVE US YOUR WORD.” The voice was almost unrecognizable, the roar tangible against her face as the teeth flashed in the firelight. The claws tightened, piercing her skin all over and causing her to cry out in pain and terror.
Ugh. So I’m a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings and Russian-y stuff and bad-ass chicks, and so I when I read the blurb, a B&B retelling set in a vaguely Russian-sounding place with Belle as a hunter out to get Beast, fuck yeah, give it to me baby.
Luckily, I was not disappointed. This book was awesome! It had everything I wanted. The traditional elements of the original tale are there, and I do mean the original tale, not the Disney version, but adapted to a Russian-like setting. It is familiar and comforting, in a different setting, and my love for the classic tale is such that I never get tired of the variations. Some of the (welcome) difference in the book is that Gaston (Solmir) is actually a really nice guy (I was rooting for him!) and Belle (Yeva)’s sisters are really nice (again, a welcome change)
Yeva, her sisters, and father live together with their widowed father, leading a comfortable life. She, however, longs for the woods and the hunt. She knows she will have to marry, but it’s a prospect to which she does not look forward.
She could remain unmarried, but to do so would make her a financial burden to her father. To marry would be to leave the wood forever, surrendering what little freedom she still had.
Due an unfortunate loss of a trade caravan, their entire fortune was lost. It is a devastating blow, and they will have to return to the forest, where he had lived before marrying their late mother. They bore the loss of their fortune resolutely and bravely, but there is no doubt that it is overwhelming to them all.
She had seen the spirit die in her father’s eyes. He sat doubled over, looking up at her like a man of eighty. How long could he continue to hunt? He had not had to provide for himself, much less a family, solely by hunting in nearly twenty years.
A chunk of ice detached itself from the roof and slid off, scraping loudly across the sniffles and sobs punctuating the quiet. Winter was coming fast.
Their new home is cold, strange, and wild. Something lurks in the forests, slowly driving her father mad. With her father gone, Yeva wanders back into the forest to hunt, reveling in the freedom, until she is captured and chained by the Beast. But she is no weakling, and she knows what she must do.
I am the captive of the monster who killed my father, she thought with sudden crystal clarity.
She hadn’t left her sisters behind for nothing. She hadn’t tracked her father and discovered him dead, only to die herself the captive of a Beast.
She knew now why she was here. She would see the monster dead.
I’ve been told that this is also based on another Russian fairy tale, but what it reminds me of is Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade’s tale. Like Scheherazade, Yeva tells her captor of her life, tells him tales, to keep him entertained and to keep her own sanity.
This is no tale of Beauty wearing pretty clothes in the castle during her imprisonment. Our Beauty is a hunter and she uses her skills, hunting and learning aside Beast. The romance is almost nonexistent throughout most of the story, as it should be. And yes, there is a sense of Stockholm Syndrome, but come on, have you read the original tale and the Disney version? The important thing here is that their friendship and eventually, their romance, is believable; a slow burn.
I just really like this book. Even Solmir (Gaston) *squee*
Solmir was silent, watching her. Beyond him and around him the peony leaves fell, drifting to and fro like feathers on the wind. Yes, Yeva thought. I could love him.
But though she struggled not to, she found herself listening with all her might for the tiniest glimmer of a song in him, of the magic the Beast had taught her to hear.