In the age of the Faerie Queene, Elizabeth I, Lord Francis Rodermere starts to lay waste to a forest. Furious, the sorceress who dwells there scrawls a curse into the bark of the first oak he fells: A faerie boy will be born to you whose beauty will be your death.
Ten years later, Lord Rodermere’s son, Beau is born – and all who encounter him are struck by his great beauty.
Meanwhile, many miles away in a London alchemist’s cellar lives Randa – a beast deemed too monstrous to see the light of day.
And so begins a timeless tale of love, tragedy and revenge…
'The Beauty of the Wolf' is written by Wren Delaney, the pen name of author Sally Gardner. I've read a lot of Gardner's children's books but this is the first of her adult novels that I've picked up. I love her style of writing and wonderful use of language, so I've really been looking forward to this title. There were two things that particularly attracted me to it. The first was the description of it as a feminist retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I can't stress how much I love a new spin on a traditional fairytale. This one sounded especially intriguing because of the swapping of gender roles between the two main characters. The second thing was the absolutely beautiful hardback edition. I am always sucked in by a pretty cover and this one is absolutely gorgeous.
This is an adult retelling, so it's quite dark and far removed from any visions that you might have of the Disney version. Don't go into it expecting there to be love and flowers and talking tea cups. This is more like a dark, gothic story with some serious adult themes and some strong sexual content.
I really liked the historical setting of Elizabethan England and the world building was excellent. Delaney made it come alive before my eyes and I felt immersed in all of the details of the period. I did find the pace very slow at the beginning of the story which I know is something that other reviewers have commented on. I like to be drawn into a book right from the start, or I can sometimes have a tendency to give up on titles that I'm not enjoying. Therefore, for me, I felt like more needed to happen in the first few chapters.
The story is told from the point of view of three different characters: The Sorceress, The Beast and Beauty. The problem with this is that it felt like the narrative flitted around a lot between the characters and they came across as pretty flat. Randa was probably my favourite but I didn't feel hugely engaged by any one individual.
There does seem to be a trend at the moment for historical fiction with a side of bawdy (I'm thinking of books like 'The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock' which this reminded me of). This isn't really my kind of thing which probably explains why I struggled with this novel. I'm disappointed that I didn't end up enjoying it more but it's one that I might come back to and read again at some point in the future because I'd like to give it another chance.
Check out all of the other stops on 'The Beauty of the Wolf' blog tour.