Date Released: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Candlewick Press
They say Château Beaumont is cursed. But servant-girl Lucie can’t believe such foolishness about handsome Jean-Loup Christian Henri LeNoir, Chevalier de Beaumont, master of the estate. But when the chevalier’s cruelty is revealed, Lucie vows to see him suffer. A wisewoman grants her wish, with a spell that transforms Jean-Loup into monstrous-looking Beast, reflecting the monster he is inside. But Beast is nothing like the chevalier. Jean-Loup would never patiently tend his roses; Jean-Loup would never attempt poetry; Jean-Loup would never express remorse for the wrong done to Lucie. Gradually, Lucie realizes that Beast is an entirely different creature from the handsome chevalier, with a heart more human than Jean-Loup’s ever was. Lucie dares to hope that noble Beast has permanently replaced the cruel Jean-Loup — until an innocent beauty arrives at Beast’s château with the power to break the spell.
TW: Rape and Attempted Suicide
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy to review.
Who doesn’t love Beauty and the Beast?
It is definitely one of my favorite fairy tales and Disney movies! I also love reading retellings of stories as it is interesting what new ideas the author will bring to the story. So this story seemed like a perfect match for me. I was intrigued by the story not being from either Belle’s or Beast’s perspectives.
Now when I was reading this book, it did take me forever to read it. And then all of a sudden today I just sat down and finished it. It reminded me a lot of The Book of Esther where I was enjoying it but I wasn’t super eager to read it. Now I think that has to do with the first half of the book where we meet Jean-Loup, the antagonist of the story. The best way I can describe him is like Gaston but worse, like Calix worse. Jean-Loup is an arrogant, narcissistic, materialistic, selfish rapist. He does rape the main character Lucie and that was very graphic. It is after he violates Lucie that she finds help in Mere Sophie, who is a witch. Mere Sophie turns Jean-Loup into Beast, Lucie into a Candelabra, scares away everyone else, and enchants the castle.
Now, this is where I had some issues and I was conflicted about how I was feeling about this book. First, I had already described what Jean-Loup was like and I found it hard to believe that I could actually grow to like this character or that he would ever change. (Spoiler: Beast is so sweet.) Second, I felt like turning Lucie into a candelabra was cruel as Jean-Loup use to call her “Little Candle”. Also, Mere Sophie traps her in a castle alone with her rapist when Lucie asked her to punish him. Can you see why I wasn’t super keen on this book in the beginning!!!!!
But then Beast did actually start to change. He started tending to the roses. (It is a retelling of BatB, of course, there are roses!) And then he was reading and writing poetry. And I was starting to like him! And so was Lucie. Now before you go all Stockholm-Syndrome-theory on me, let me say something; I am going to explain at the end of this review or you can go read the book yourself, get mad and then realize everything and then get mad again, yes it is quite the process.
But before I get there I would like to interrupt this review to talk about the characters and the prose. First, some would consider the prose to be boring and that I can understand. The story is told from the point of view of Lucie, who is an enchanted inanimate object. She can only tell what is going on if someone takes her to where the action is. Which is why Rose (Belle’s name, I know so original) basically walks around with her like Linus with his blanket. The dialogue is what I call quiet. It is soft (some would say flat) and moves gently. I don’t mind it but some do.
Rose is basically the Belle that we all know and love. She comes to the castle after her father tries to pick a rose from the Beast’s gardens (He also tries to steal Lucie which was weird) and she comes back in his place. Lucie is likable, she is not on my top 20 list of favorite characters but I didn’t hate her. And speaking of hate, I want to dissect what some would call “girl hate”. It seemed like Lucie was looking down at Rose for acting the way that she was. I can completely understand Rose’s perspective. But I also get Lucie’s. She doesn’t want Jean-Loup to come back which will happen if Rose marries Beast. Therefore even though at some moments it seemed like girl hate when it was actually just two girls trying to prevent the worst from happening.
This paragraph will have spoilers.
Mere Sophie is a really sweet lady but she is also horrible.
To explain, and I forewarned you about spoilers so don’t complain, Beast is his real form and Jean-Loup was just his mother’s way of making him acceptable to society. Not that I have blown your brains (or at least that is how I felt after I read that), let me really explain. Beast’s parents where both nobles and there was serve inbreed which caused his father to be infertile. But his mother desperately wanted a child and as Mere Sophie put it her love was stronger than that of nature. But due to this Beast (I am still calling him this because I feel that it is important to separate him from Jean-Loup) was born monstrous, wings, hooves, a snout, paws and he was feared but he was the sweetest child. Beast’s mother begged Mere Sophie to change him so his outward appearance was as sweet as his disposition. Now if you are like me and you read a lot of fairy tales (or you have just been paying attention) you will immediately see what happened. Jean-Loup was formed, as beautiful as his mother wanted him to be but as cruel as his father made him. But when Mere Sophie changed him Beast came back and that is why Beast is so different. Now why I think Mere Sophie is a terrible woman. WHY DIDN’T SHE TELL LUCIE ANY OF THIS???? Lucie found this all out after Beast was turned back into Jean-Loup. She could have saved Lucie so much heartache and the reader so much hate for the Beast. I do understand that this was supposed to make a really cool plot twist and it was another way for the author to change the story into her own. Also, I do understand why Beast returned. Jean-Loup was too much of a terror and if you punish Jean-Loup then you would also punish Beast, who is completely innocent to this.
Oh and the other reason which I know I already mentioned but I want to emphasize this point, why Mere Sophie isn’t one of my favorite characters, she kept Lucie locked in the tour with Beast, who Lucie still thought was Jean-Loup and he was still for the first month (it is complicated). The least she could have done was keep Lucie as herself but make sure she could never be hurt by the Beast. Though I will give Jensen props; it was quite clever of her to make Lucie into a candelabra and make sure her flames could never be extinguished. It was sort of screw you to Jean-Loup as his Little Candle was now his permanent reminder as to why he was there.
One last thing because this review is getting really long. How I liked it in comparison to the original. It was definitely an interesting take on the story. The author cites Greta Garbo’s response to the 1941 film adaption of the tale. She remarked about how she wanted the Beast back as that is who Belle fell in love with not the prince that the Beast was. I also liked how it was not Rose who was the Beauty, the girl who gets Beast in the end, but she is the one who sets him free.