Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge
By Lisa Jensen
Hardcover, 337 pages
2018, Candlewick Press
I won a copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for my honest review.
Lucie is new to her position as a housemaid at Chateau Beaumont. She’s got to be careful not to lose her position, as she can’t go back to her stepfather’s home. But the Chevalier de Beaumont, Jean-Loup, is a cruel and abusive master. When Lucie gets a chance to have her revenge, with the help of a wise woman, Jean-Loup is turned into a terrifying beast. Lucie stays on at the castle while all others flee, to ensure Jean-Loup suffers and her revenge is exacted to the fullest. But as time goes on, Lucie finds the beast is nothing like her former master. When a beautiful girl arrives and threatens to break the spell on the beast, Lucie vows she will do everything she can to prevent it and keep the beast she’s come to know.
Once again, Jensen wowed me with her retelling. My review on Alias Hook totally doesn’t do justice for my intense love of that book; and I was worried Beast wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I was so wrong! While Beast isn’t as dark, and has a vague YA feel about it, it was just as moving and engrossing as Alias Hook!
Inspired by a quote from Greta Garbo, who supposedly cried “Give me back my Beast!” after watching the Jean Cocteau film, Jensen turns the traditional tale sideways. The prince, or Chevalier, is still handsome and cruel – after he rapes Lucie she vows revenge – and he’s still turned into a hideous beast. Only this time, the beast is almost instantly a different person. He doesn’t have to learn to be kind and appears to forget his human past. When the beauty shows up after her father traditionally steals the rose, she now threatens to break the spell and revert the kind beast back to the cruel Chevalier. Lucie must do what she can to prevent that – only she’s been transformed by the spell too. I won’t say how; this part took me completely by surprise when I was reading and it was wonderfully done.
If you’re worried, the rape scene isn’t overly graphic, but that doesn’t make it easy to read. The aftermath of the traumatic is fraught with just as much, if not more, emotion. Lucie feels a constant, secret shame about what was done to her, though it wasn’t by any means her fault.
“I speak to no one, and no further notice is taken of me. I try to believe that if I’m quiet enough, insignificant enough, someday I might disappear altogether, like the dew off a rose. I will escape my memory, my shame, even my flesh, and the torment of my life will end. I pray for that moment.”
Her shame and guilt drive her to drown herself, though she’s unsuccessful. This is how she meets the wise woman who helps exact her revenge.
“He has taken a great deal from you, my dear. Don’t let him have the rest. Prove you have the stronger heart and survive.”
Lucie does just that.
The tone lightens somewhat after that. Once the Chevalier and Lucie are transformed, Lucie’s perspective on the beast and herself changes. She was a mousy, plain girl before, who didn’t think much of herself (though she wasn’t overly negative.) After her transformation, she considers herself beautiful and strong.
“I am strong, as I never was before. I am here to show him what he has become.”
Her outlook on the entire situation was a refreshing one, yet another spin Jensen puts on the familiar tale. The story focuses more on the successful transformations of the two main characters, rather than the beast and his beauty pining for what he once was. Yet again, Jensen created an immersive story and characters that were easy to care about. Or, well, loathe, in the case of the Chevalier.
I loved every page of this book. From the surprising transformation of Lucie to the emotional transformation of the beast to the interruption caused by beautiful Rose – Jensen kept me guessing what would happen next and praying that my ship would sail.
I can’t wait for more from Jensen! I’ll leave you with an abbreviated quote:
“That’s the sort of story folk love – a clear moral, a happy ending. It comforts them to think the barriers between virtue and evil, love and hate, beauty and beast, are so clearly defined…Happily ever after takes hard work, but folk don’t like to hear about that.”
I highly recommend this if:
+You enjoy darker retellings
+You like your love stories with a side of revenge
+You enjoy books that fall into the rare, magical gap between YA and adult