Title: The Beast’s Heart
Author: Leife Shallcross
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Source: ARC from YALC 2017 (Thanks Hodder!)
I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.
I am the Beast.
The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time.
My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded.
My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again.
WARNING: this post includes minor spoilers, read at your own risk!
I was lucky enough to be one of the few who nabbed a copy of this book at YALC last year. It was a very special early copy as it was there in July and the book wasn’t due out until almost a year later. To have bagged a copy that early was nothing short of a book lovers miracle. I didn’t want to read it immediately as I wanted to talk about it around its release. Unfortunately, I found this book to be very disappointing. The Beast’s Heart is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (if you couldn’t guess from its title) and was rolling off the hype of last years Beauty and the Beast movie success. This book was told from the Beast’s perspective, which was something that I was looking forward too but offered none of the other typical characters that we saw in the famous film.
This book fell short in several places but mostly it was the characters and the narrative. I’ll start with the characters. There was a lack of people in this book. There was no arrogant man trying to win the affections of our Beauty and there were no house servants. Or at least, not ones that you could see or hear. There was only the Beast, Beauty, her father, her sisters and three other characters that actually existed in the book. The cast of The Beast’s Heart was very small, indeed.
The Beast is a very lonely character, but he is also harmful. I felt as if he thought that everything was owed to him and if he didn’t get what he want or things didn’t go his way, he would get angry very easily which was completely unnecessary. I’m not sure if this was to show his beastly and irrational side, but I felt that he was a harmful character because of this. The Beast is also haunted by the memory of his father and how much he doesn’t want to be like him, but this has other consequences. Isabeau is a fairly uninteresting character. There was nothing wrong with her, I just didn’t find her all that interesting. If anything, I found her sisters much more interesting to read about!
The book is always told from the Beast’s perspective, but I felt like there were two separate parts to it. The Beast at home and the Beast watching Isabeau’s family. If I am being totally honest, my favourite scenes were when we were transported to Isabeau’s family. I mean, imagine being confined to a house and its grounds for a year. You’d run out of things to do and be so bored, so you can imagine what 300 pages of that feels like. Isabeau’s family gave some sort of relief during this book but it wasn’t enough to fully redeem the whole book.
I didn’t think that Leife’s writing was particularly bad, but I did feel that the narrative style was way over the top, to the point where I think the book could easily have been cut down by 100 pages. It was frustrating to read because I didn’t want to put the book down but it was really testing me at times. I would really describe the writing as purple prose. There was just too much unnecessary flouncy-ness from this book.
The ending of The Beast’s Heart was semi-abrupt. After the fairly slow pacing of the book, I felt that it ended fairly quickly. It offered what happened in the future, which is sometimes what you want a book to have, but this felt a little clumsy as if it was just thrown in for good measure.
I didn’t hate this book. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time trashing it but it wasn’t awful. If anything, I just don’t think this book was for me. Flouncy language and a slow pace can work for some books, but it just didn’t work for this one. I also took issue with the Beast’s behaviour at times. I do, however, love the cover of the ARC. In fact, that’s probably the only thing that I loved about this book.