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384 pages, Paperback
First published March 14, 2017
“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”
The snow is a canvas, her father would say, upon which the beast paints his past, his home, his intentions, his future. Learn to see the picture and you will know him as you know yourself.
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.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.
“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.
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.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.
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.
I am the captive of the monster who killed my father, she thought with sudden crystal clarity.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.
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.
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.
Another anticipated release. Another unpopular opinion! Beware the spoilers!
Lo and behold, Fifty Shades of Beast!
Note: My reference of 50 shades of Beast is not about this book having explicit content. There's no sex; it's a typical YA story 'they kissed and the screen went blank'. My reference is about how disturbing and unrealistic I find what characters have between them, and there's nothing romantic I can see about it. A very strong case of Stockholm Syndrome (worse than in the original, as here the Beast kidnaps, chains Beauty in the dungeon, and threatens to kill her relatives if she doesn't obey him. Their relationship reminds me of a Master/Slave one, where a person doesn't have a choice but to do what their master says.
Somewhere in the wilderness of… um, where are we? Is this supposed to be some kind of imaginary world or a real one? Russian wilderness? Or Europe or America? Stop, did they say Constantinople? Mongols? Rather than these two titles, there was nothing specific. So this is the 15th century of what country? If the author aimed for Russia, then it's an epic fail because there's nothing distinctive about Russian culture except for the name Galina and the Russian fairy-tales the heroine's father told her when she was a child.
*100 pages into the book and still no distinctive picture of where the hell the book takes place* Insert any place and any language you wish and it will work. Heck, insert moon and it'll work as this book's setting. Hello, non-existent world-building.
Beauty aka Dummy: I am so wild, I don’t want to be a gentle lady, give me my bow and arrows and I’ll run about happily shooting poor creatures in the forest.
Sisters: But we must learn to be ladies. It’s the 15th, not the 21st century. We can’t just run about wild and uncaring about our future.
Father: Oh children, we are poor; all my ships are gone and our money with them. So now we have to travel into the wilderness to live in our family shag, wherever the fuck this wilderness is located.
Sisters: Oh god, we are ruined. No one will marry us now without status and money.
Beauty aka Dummy: Yahoo, we are poor, and now I won't have to marry! Fuck my poor sisters and my ruined father, I’ll run about in the dirt and hug pigs and will be so happyyyyy!!
*After a long trip, they are finally in the ass of the world (wherever it is)*
Father: I’ll go hunting. Beauty, I forbid you to go after me, stay home, and take care of your sisters.
*a week or so passes*
Solmir aka Gaston: Hi, Beauty, I came to make you my wife. I was in love with you for a long time. I’ll give you all the freedom you want. We’ll hunt together, we’ll travel together, we’ll do whatever you want. And when it’s time for me to come back and become the Baron, you will be by my side beloved and cared for.
Beauty aka Dummy: It’s tempting, but I am such a feminist, I want to live in God’s ass of nowhere, hunt sweet creatures every day, and roll with pigs in the dirt. Why would I marry someone likable and sweet like you if I have my pigs?
*Solmir goes away but comes back the next day and the next one and so on*
Beauty aka Dummy: Ok, Solmir, I will marry you, because, though, I am a Dummy, but even I can see that you are actually a decent person and I like you, but first I must go find my absent father. I’ll go alone to the middle of nowhere.
Solmir aka Gaston: But..but maybe it’s more reasonable to go together? It’s dangerous alone out there, don’t you think, Beauty?
Beauty aka Dummy: Nonsense! What could happen to a girl with only a bow for protection in the middle of winter god knows where? Besides, you’ll spoil my meeting with my love interest #2 The Beast. Go home, be a househusband while I hunt the Beast.
*some freezing time later*
Beauty aka Dummy: I am alone. And there are eerie sounds everywhere and, look, blood… I just pissed myself but I am such an independent woman that I can’t go back until I find out where the blood trail leads.
*finds her dead father and is attacked by the Beast*
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: We are such a Byronic tragic figure. We hunt. We kill. We compose poetry. We need a girl for our Beast-y shady business.
*Beauty regains consciousness*
Beauty aka Dummy: Oh, where am I? Why am I chained in some stinky dungeon? Who did this to me?
Voice behind the door:Hey you, are you okay?
Beauty aka Dummy: Oh friend, I am so happy I am not alone!
Voice behind the door: I am not your friendrrrr.
Beauty aka Dummy: But you are, I am so alone here, and you are helping me while someone chained me in this stinking dungeon. Let me tell you a fairy-tale while we wait for our nasty captor to return.
Voice behind the door: Um, ok.
*a few fairy-tales later*
Voice behind the door: Put this blindfold over your eyes.
Beauty aka Dummy: Oh, my friend, your voice is full of richness and depth, I can’t disobey it. And, though, you are a stranger and I haven’t seen you, I’ll trust your sexy voice to not lead me back into the forest to kill me. I know you are going to save me from whoever put me in this stinking dungeon.
Voice behind the door: You know nothingrrrr!
(Sorry, I couldn't resist *snickers*)
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: She tells us stories, she lets us touch her, and doesn’t flinch from us. Our den smells so nice of her. Errr, we want to eat her, but we wouldn't because we need to play more mind-fucking games with our prey.
Beauty aka Dummy: I know you are shy and that’s why you don’t want me to see your face, not because you are some vile creature that abducted me and put me in chains. I am your friend, please, show me your pretty, pretty face.
Voice behind the door: Norrrr!
*takes off the blindfold anyway*
Beauty aka Dummy: *gasp* it’s you the Beast who kidnapped and dragged me and chained me in this stinky dungeon!!
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: Finally you Dummy added two and two together! Now I can tell you that I need you for some shady Beast-y business. I’ll train you myself. You’ll be the master BDSM when I am done with you.
Beauty aka Dummy: What?
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: Get up or I’ll kill you. No, better I’ll kill your family, the one you told me about when you was a Dummy and thought I was your friend.
Beauty aka Dummy: How dare you Beast! Un-Beasthandle me now!
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: We both know you love my paws.
Beauty aka Dummy: I am an independent woman and I’ll kill you Beast!
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: I love me some foreplay! Now, go train!
Beauty aka Dummy: Don’t command me as if I were your property!
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: You are minerrrrr!
Beauty aka Dummy: You may have me captive, you may control when I leave, piss or eat, or how long I am allowed to live. You may be my master Dominant, but you do not own me!
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: Um, are you serious, Dummy?
Beauty aka Dummy: Ok, I might admit that you actually own me after all… And some part of me actually likes it. I look into your beasty eyes and see a sexy human boy in their depth. I think I can work with that.
*some shady beast-y training later*
Beauty aka Dummy: What are you doing in my room in the middle of the night, Beast?!
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: I am a Byronic tragic figure, I need to brood in the middle of the night in a maiden's room so she would fall in love with me; they always do when I pull that trick.
Beauty aka Dummy: Oh, it’s so romantic, I like it.
*more beast-y foreplay later*
Beast aka Gothic lunatic: I think Stockholm Syndrome finally kicked in. Now I can let you go home Beauty because we both know you’ll be running back to me in no time. Who is your master Dominant?
Beauty aka Dummy: You, Beast, but I didn’t tell you that *flutters eyelashes* I am such a feminist, I don’t need men for anything, I’ll play coy and go home, because I, at least, need to pretend not to care, and then after some angsty alone time I’ll come to you as an independent woman, and we’ll finally deal with your shady Beast-y business *blows a kiss and gallops away astride a unicorn*
Okay, it’s actually not the end, but we all know how this story ends, and besides I DNFed this book at about 50% and just skipped to the end and, yup: angst, angst, angst and then a Happily Beast-y After. I get that the author was aiming for the darker version of Beauty and the Beast, but the whole Stockholm Syndrome case was such a killjoy. Plus the logic behind characters’ actions, especially the heroines, killed the book for me. Add to that the non-existent world-building, and, overall, I didn't enjoy the book at all. So why give two stars then? Well, the writing was nice, and this is not the worst or the most ridiculous book I've read this year. Just not my cup of tea, mostly.
And as Yeva
scanned the walls, each one lined with shelves and each one full
of leather-bound books, at least a hundred books, more than she
knew existed in one place, she felt her heart might simply burst.
"She knew now why she was here. She would see the monster dead."
"Yeva, you are my sister. I love you. I love you more than anything. You and Lena are the most important things in all the world." She finally squeezed Yeva's hand back, swallowing audibly. "I would give up a thousand Solmirs for you."
"This is a dream," she whispered. "Magic. A fairy tale."
"I am not asking you to love me," he said, his voice ringing in the quiet winter air. "Only that you let me love you. As I do."
“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest—and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. she reminds us of what we used to be.
She reminds us of what we could be.”
“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”