Emma Hill is back with a Beautiful Beast of a retelling; twisting the classic fairytale of Beauty and the Beast into a thrilling novel of loss, revenge, love and a whole lot of magic.
In her retelling debut “Ashes of Glass”, Hill stuck to the original Cinderella opening that we all know and love. However, Beautiful Beast is not the story of an enchantress punishing a vain, selfish prince but rather of a young girl cursed as a result of the privileges and prejudices of her family. Sure, it has a curse, a rose, a magic mirror and all that jazz but this YA novel is a masterpiece that barely warrants being compared to the sugar plum animated images we have in our mind.
The novel is written from the perspective of both Kalista (our “beast”) and Arawn, a mysterious traveller who seems hell bent on revenge against Kalista. What could possibly go wrong?
In order to separate her two main characters, Emma Hill labels each chapter with her protagonist’s name and I really appreciated this. The story does not move around a lot geographically but the emotions involved are so intense that I really valued the clear distinction between the two viewpoints.
Beautiful Beast sees Hill continue her first-person perspective style of writing that worked so well in Ashes of Glass. This enabled the reader to empathise with the characters so much more and I always feel that the suspense and mystery can be created to a greater extent this way. Indeed, I certainly didn’t see Arawn’s secret coming!
I loved how Beautiful Beast basically took all our ingrained, comfortable notions of Beauty and the Beast and threw them out of the window! Firstly, by presenting the “beast” as a beautiful woman who happens to be able to wield magic, we are forced to question whether she has gained the title of “beast” through her misdeeds or violence or perhaps, purely through rumour?
Emma Hill also ridicules the age-old remedy for a curse: true love’s kiss, which made this feminist very happy! She does not shy away from her message that love means so much more than a kiss: it can sometimes consist of sacrifice, stepping out of your comfort zone or even war.
Character development is first-rate: no character within Beautiful Beast can be accused of being two-dimensional in my opinion. Although the reader begins with a background knowledge of Kalista, her personality and loyalties are expanded upon. Arawn however, is a brash, bold character who you could be forgiven for thinking does not possess a softer side. Even our enchantress villain has both a backstory and a further role within the plot: no one is superficial in this novel.
Not content with blowing our mind with the main characters or the underlying message, Hill continues challenging the traditional tale by giving the castle’s cursed servants a much more heartfelt and tragic storyline. Again, small things such as the use of real names really makes the difference in how immersed the reader becomes.
I do not doubt that this has been a labour of love for Emma Hill: the nod to other fairytales such as Snow White and even Frozen/The Snow Queen are simply brilliant. Put these snippets alongside beautiful writing, a heartfelt storyline, danger and a truly evil villain: you have it all…. almost! The best bit of this story? That it definitely has a sequel!
Thank you to Emma Hill and Booksirens for providing a free advance copy of Beautiful Beast. My review is in my own words and is left voluntarily.