by G. R. Mannering
Read: October 13 - 15, 2013
Published: November 1, 2013 by Sky Pony Press **UPCOMING**
Source: Copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Category: Fairy tale retelling
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
A dark rendition of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast!
'As the gates clicked shut behind them, she heard the distant roar of a beast.'
She bears no name. Her silvery appearance is freakish to the numerous inhabitants of Sago, the cosmopolitan capital of Pevorocco in a fantasy realm. With her mother vanishing at the instance of her birth, she is sent to live with the cruel, rich Ma Dane, where she is punished daily for something, though she knows not what. Tauntingly named Beauty, she flees Sago in a violent uprising that sets out to massacre all Magics and journeys to the furthest point of the country.
But Beauty cannot hide in the grassy Hillands forever. Before long, the State officials find her and threaten to take her back to war-torn Sago where death surely awaits. In a midnight blizzard she escapes them, running into a deep, enchanted forest to a great and terrible beast who will bargain for her life.
But can Beauty accept Beast? Eternity is a long time.
G. R. Mannering's eloquent style and creative retelling of a timeless classic illuminates the plight of Beauty and the Beast, bringing a new layer to this beloved tale.
She is born in a pauper's hospital and the midwife recoils at her silvery skin and amethyst eyes. She is sent to live with a wealthy relative, where she spends her childhood unloved, hidden and feared for her strange appearance. Her first friend is a horse in the stables, and her first human kindness comes from the stable master. The name Beauty is said as a joke, but it is the only one she's ever given. Eventually, she must run from the only home she knows and travel into the cold north, or face persecution for a heritage that she doesn't understand. She has the ability to see the future in her dreams, and she knows she is destined to meet a man with a scar and that roses will play a part, but she doesn't know how or why.
Roses takes the well-known classic tale of Beauty and the Beast and tells it like a traditional fairytale, but at the same time veers away from the original in ways that make the story fresh and imaginative. I think the strength of this book is in the emotional connection that I was able to form with Beauty over the course of the novel, as well as the broader context in which the love story is placed. Because of that, this seemingly simple retelling reveals itself to be actually quite original and complex.
Roses begins with the birth of a child who will grow up to be called Beauty. Starting at the very beginning worried me at first, because it seemed a long way to go to get to the meat (aka romance portion) of the tale. But the care that Mannering took to unravel Beauty's story, and also that of the greater magical world in which she lives, added layers of depth and became one of my favorite aspects of the book. Experiencing Beauty's childhood was essential to connecting with her actions in the latter half of the story, including how she was able to fall in love with Beast. Thankfully, Roses is never boring, and I was riveted to Beauty's journey from beginning to end.
Beauty is born in the country of Pervorocco, which has a long history of uneasy relations with magic. In Beauty's world there are Magic Beings (creatures like trolls and magical beasts) as well as Magic Bloods (humans who have the ability to do magic). It's unclear which Beauty is when the story begins, but it's obvious that she's something Other than her fellow countrymen, who are mostly regular humans. When the non-Magic rulers of Pervorocco begin hunting down Magics in the country, Beauty flees the capital city. She travels into the northern Hillands with the stable master Owaine, who is the only person in the world that has ever cared for her. Owaine assures Beauty that his Hilland people will welcome her, but Beauty is not as certain.
I wish there was a little more detail in this story about the greater magical world, especially after the tantalizing glimpses that we get throughout this story. However, I like the way Roses weaves Beauty's own story - as well as Beast's - into that of a larger society struggling with prejudice and persecution of Magics, adding a greater context and purpose to this tale.
Although the most traditional part of this retelling is the time that Beauty spends in Beast's castle, what sets this love story apart for me is how intimately I knew Beauty by the time she enters the castles gates. Seeing Beauty misunderstood and isolated her entire life for her appearance is an interesting comparison to how she sees Beast. Beauty doesn't automatically accept Beast and can barely look at him without cringing. In fact, in many ways Beast is more emotionally in tune with Beauty than she ever is with him.
Thus, how are all the people who have despised and
isolated Beauty over the years any different from how Beauty treats Beast? And yet, he is still a beast and I'm not sure I would have been able to bring myself to love him romantically. Roses is filled with many standard elements to the Beauty and the Beast myth, but I still felt like I was seeing the fairytale in a new light because of the truths found in this telling.
One of the subtle themes that stood out to me in Roses involves prophetic dreams. Several characters in this book, including Beauty, follow a certain path because they have the ability to see the future in their dreams. For some of them it is an obsession and they will do whatever the dream tells them is supposed to happen, regardless of what it is. It's the great chicken or the egg debate. But this book also asks whether these characters should be held accountable for their actions, even if they are only following through with what a dream said they would do. Do they have the ability to change what they've seen happen in a dream? If they had altered their course, would any of this story have turned out the way it did? The complexity of this debate is one of the reasons that I've fallen so hard for this book.
What I love about Roses is that in one sense it reads like a simple retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but the more I examine it, the more layers I see in this rich fantasy tale. In the way Beauty and the Beast see each other, and how their journeys contrast and converge. How could a girl actually fall in love with a Beast, even if he a fellow prisoner and her only companion? I love how uniquely they were each able to understand the other's loneliness and insecurities. I also like that the author weaves a larger context and purpose into this tale and into the relationship between Beauty and Beast.
As far as I know, Roses is a standalone. However, I would love to read another book that further explores this society. Either from Beauty's perspective or a new character.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone (as far as I know, though I would welcome a sequel)