4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
This is a rewrite of Beauty and the Beast, but it has little bits of some Russian fairytales mixed in, and that works REALLY well for this story.
This Beauty is the usual kind, beautiful girl with two older sisters and a bankrupt father who are forced to move when their fortunes change for the worse, but she is also a skilled hunter, preferring to spend her time running free in the forest with her dog. The beast is under a spell and is slowly losing himself to the animal inside. Instead of needing someone to love him, he needs a hunter to capture a creature that can break his enchantment.
This new dynamic was a great twist to the original tale. I have never seen anyone who redoes this tale change what beast needed beauty for, especially when it is such an obvious thing to go for. Watching someone kidnap someone else for love, especially a young girl, was always a bit creepy. In this one, he needs her for her practical abilities: her hunting skills. He no longer has to try and be charming, just persuasive enough to get her to track and trap something.
The inclusion of some Russian fairytale references gives this usually-western tale a very Eastern European flavour. The tales are actually used in-world as well as in the structure of the story, which is a weirdly meta way to run the story, but it makes the world very three-dimensional to have its own legends and stories (even if they are identical to the ones in ours).
Despite being more of a tomboy than is usual, running wild in the woods shooting stuff and all that, this retelling continues the Disney-inspired Beauty who loves to read. I don’t know why this became indispensable to this fairy tale’s cannon. Not every little mermaid since Disney has collected human stuff and not every Jasmine is obsessed with personal freedom. If anyone has any ideas why this is suddenly so central to the character, please pass them along, since I am stumped.
This addition of Russian character to the traditional Beauty and the Beast gave this retelling depth that many of them lack. It was novel enough to catch my interest quickly but familiar enough to be comfortable. Definitely recommending this one!