A dark forest surrounds the small town of Leola. They come to fear its dark depths when members of their town enter the forest, but never return. Sometimes, dismembered remains are found and all can only assume they’re falling prey to a horrible beast.
For Valerie, the deaths are terrible, but can’t deter her from entering the forest. Her father is left drinking away his pain and it’s up to her to make sure they don’t starve. That means entering the forest even though it’s not safe.
Young Aubrey is about to take over as Lord of Leola. He’s more worried that his name in history will be only a short paragraph in the history of his family. Bound and determined he will be remembered as more, he vows to bring the beast down and ensure his place in history.
Both will venture into the forest. Each will have to confront who they are. The only question is, who will triumph?
I would consider this book a blend of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with a darker twist reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. Well written, and with an ending that does the book justice, you go on a ride following very different characters.
At the very beginning, we are treated to a fairy tale about a Beast in the forest. Cursed by the spirit of the forest for his evil deeds, he is set a task where he has to perform 1,000 good deeds to atone for all the evil he has done in his life so far. What threw me was I kept expecting this story to come alive within the book somehow. It completely colored what I was expecting and as I read through the book, I kept waiting. This is one of the times I’d say the prologue did a disservice to the storyline as a whole.
Introduced to the main characters, one can’t help but draw parallels with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Belle takes on the form of Valerie. Instead of a “crackpot inventor,” we have a broken down guardsman who couldn’t handle the death of his wife and turned to drink instead. Valerie works in a bookstore and borrows books to read. There are other connections to the movie, but I’ll let you discover them on your own.
Young Aubrey steps into the role of Gaston. Not quite the same, but I couldn’t help but draw that parallel. I’m not going to say too much about him as his storyline is definitely different. He is a fascinating character.
The beast himself takes on a name and becomes known to Valerie after tragic circumstances change her life forever.
The book itself starts off slow. It then slams on the gas and takes off. If anything, I’d say this book has some pacing issues. Periodically, there would be a lot of major action happening but then be offset by ‘nothing much,’ only to have it ramp up and take off again. There were also minor typos and a few sentences which were missing words. It’s definitely a common occurrence when someone is editing but has read it so many times they don’t even notice the word is missing. Only readers new to the context will pick it up. One other problem I had was I couldn’t ever quite picture what the characters looked like. It’s like every one of them was an out-of-focus photograph in my mind. However, each had a distinctive personality that stood out.
All in all, it was an enjoyable read. The ending fit perfect and I was pleased with how A.R. Davis handled it. However, due to some of the themes introduced in this book and the violence, I would highly recommend a parent vet it before handing it over to a young adult reader. You should determine if this is something you want your child to read on your own, but it definitely has potential for a young adult book.