BEAST: A TALE OF LOVE AND REVENGE, by Lisa Jensen, Candlewick, July 10, 2018, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
In 1740, French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve published Beauty and the Beast. Since then there have been numerous retellings, including the two Disney versions most people know of today.
In Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge, author Lisa Jensen moves squarely away from the more sanitized versions with a tale much darker and nuanced.
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. —Synopsis provided by Candlewick
While I was expecting a less “sparkly” version of this tale, it’s fair to say that Beast surprised me with some jarring moments. This version is not a happy fairy tale. Lucie’s tale is not an easy one. She starts out innocent and light, but a life-altering incident leaves her angry and vengeful.
Over the course of the book, Lucie’s outlook evolves. Light is shone in dark places and truth is parsed out. Even so, Lucie never becomes what I would consider a likeable character. She’s one that I understood, but her hate becomes overwhelmingly potent.
In fact, most of the characters in Beast are so motivated by their own agendas that when you do run into someone who is actually “good” they almost seem one-note.
I have mixed feeling about Beast. Author Lisa Jensen’s retelling is intriguing, but it’s not something I would hand to younger YA — one particular moment of cruelty and its aftermath require maturity.
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