Demon possession has swept through Glace’s neighboring kingdom, turning humans into hellhounds. These great, fanged wolves are wild, desperate, and hungry. Only the sworn Hunters have kept them back for five long, bloody years.
At the young age of fifteen, Belle LeClair became a Hunter. She no longer remembers how many hounds she’s killed, or how many friends she’s buried. Still, Belle leads the hunt till a tragedy forces her deep into the dark kingdom. Her heart will be turned, her loyalty tested— and fate will intervene.
Amid a backdrop of Steampunk inventions and a harsh winter landscape, The Beast is a re-imagining of the infamous love between a beauty and a beast.
Many of you probably know that I’m a sucker for Beauty and the Beast retellings. Like, you insert those words into a blurb and I’m automatically in for the story. It was the same with this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! There were some common tropes that were used, but it worked well in the story, and overall you get a very delicious, action-packed steampunk version of Beauty and the Beast. While Belle maintains her name, the author adds a little twist to the others’ names: Gastone is a substitute for Gaston, Mrs. Tops instead of Mrs. Pots, Lumiere is replaced by Laramie, and General Kogsworthe instead of Cogsworth. So we get to see all these familiar characters and within a similar plotline, but also with little additions that made this one worth the read.
The story starts out with Belle killing a hellhound, which we discover more about as the story progresses. From what she knows, they are people who were afflicted by the Devil and after they are killed, they get turned back to their human form. The Catholic church plays a huge role in this (we are in France, after all) and the Bishop seems to be the most knowledgeable on this aspect. This all changes when her father Henri, the leader of the Hunters that kill hellhounds, goes to the Inventor’s Fair and becomes sidetracked by a Beast.
“We cling to what the church tells us, but we all know that this curse isn’t as simple as Heaven and Hell.”
The beginning started out a bit slow for me, especially since the Beast character isn’t introduced until 20% into the book, but once Belle arrives at his castle, the story really gets rolling. I loved to see the twists that the author added into the original Beauty and the Beast tale! Since it’s a steampunk version, we get to see cool inventions like a flying pixie automaton and listening devices that allow the Hunters to hear others from far away. At the same time, we see a French setting where Belle has to maintain propriety and being a Hunter gains her much disapproval. Hunters are supposedly only for males, and seeing a female within their ranks isn’t looked well upon by the Catholic church. However, she’s cunning and strong enough to be a part of it. Gastone is a fairly interesting character in this story, because he’s not a jerk like in the original tale. He’s another hunter that’s the son of a Count and is quite nice and cares for Belle a lot. Unfortunately, she still doesn’t see him as marriage material, even though they are friends. It’s interesting to see where the author will take his characterization in the next installment.
One thing that leaves me a bit disgruntled is the fact that so many of the characters are described as “gorgeous” or good-looking. Gastone is, Belle is, Aleksander (the Beast) is, Belle’s friend is, bah. I was waiting for a description given for the character of their facial features or something other than the fact that they were good-looking. Show, don’t tell please? Aleksander is a character that I never fully connected to, and I felt that the pacing of the romance was a bit strange. I think it was supposed to be a progressive burn, but came out like something that suddenly sprung up from nothing. It would’ve helped if I saw more heartfelt moments between Belle and Aleksander before their attachment sprung up.
“Better to have a grand love that is fleeting, than one that is ordinary and lasts till death.”
The author does a wonderful job of creating a background story for the curse that plagues Aleksander’s castle. It encompasses both Norse and Greek legends, which was really neat. I liked the way Belle stood up for what she thought was right, and her determination and loyalty to Aleksander despite the protests of the Catholic church. I’m really quite excited to see what the author has planned for us in the next book, especially in regards to the condemnation that the church has towards Aleksander and his castle.
I can definitely see considerable improvement on the writing as the book progresses. At first it was hard to get used to the rather choppy sentences and dry explanations that happened. But I found the story flowed more nicely as I delved deeper into the book, and without that many noticeable grammatical errors. By the midway point, I didn’t have much qualms about the writing and thoroughly enjoyed the story in full.
Overall, this steampunk version of Beauty and the Beast captures Belle’s character quite well, and maintains a sweet romance between her and the mysterious Aleksander, who has some secrets. The addition of Norse and Greek mythology gives it a unique spin that is refreshing to see in this widely-known tale. Some characters fell a little flat for me, but I’m optimistic about the next book and how the author will expand on their characters.