Of Thorns and Beauty by Elle Madison and Robin D Mahle

Never has a retelling been so close but so unimaginabley far away from the original fairytale. Of Thorns and Beauty is a New Adult masterpiece which will reel you in from its first pages and not let you go until its cruel cliffhanger.

A quick note that this is definitely a New Adult novel. Although not written about in detail this tale includes the subjects of abuse, murder and rape as well as a bucket load of sexual tension.

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is written solely from the perspective of our protagonist-the beauty Zaina. Forced into an arranged marriage with the renowned beast King Einar and denied any companions to accompany her, Zaina enters the “Beast’s” castle entirely on her guard and unaware as to what sort of a life lays before her.

It quickly becomes apparent that Zaina’s beauty has only ever caused pain and hardship for her in the past. As a result of this, she is a far cry from the bookish village girl seeking an adventure in the great wide somewhere. Zaina is fiery, sarcastic, dangerous and her prickly, defensive demeanour makes her few friends in her new home.

The use of a first person perspective with a protagonist such as Zaina really brings this novel to life. Zaina is such a damaged character and the reader is drip fed memories so partially and so slowly that we still don’t know the extent of her suffering once the book has ended.

The style of writing also allows us to share Zaina’s frustration at attempting to read her husband Einar’s emotions: quite ironic for someone so closed off herself. The reader does not always feel empathy though: Zaina’s defences are so high that she shuns any attempt at friendship; sometimes you just want to shake her!

Elements of the original beauty and the beast tale remain: there is indeed a curse, a rose and a forbidden west wing. However, these are so cleverly twisted that the reader will finish this book with an entirely different concept of who the Beast really is.

The fact that the authors themselves apologise for the cliffhanger, explaining that the characters and storyline just required more pages and more time, shows the sheer commitment to world building and character development.

Madison and Mahle introduce us to a whole new world of scenery and creatures; they pull us into the painful past of both main characters; place slimy villains in the shadows and raise our hopes of romance before throwing them off a cliff. This book is impossible to put down and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Thank you to Booksirens for the opportunity to read a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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