As soon as I saw this book I was seduced by the theme (a fairy tale retelling, so exciting!) and by the extraordinary beautiful cover.
By some cosmic and rather unusual chance, I wasn’t disappointed in the end but wildly enthusiastic!
The strong points are speaking for themselves:
A classical narration, rather literary and very fluid, with credible characters and not – a frequent flaw in much YA recent best-sellers – modern characters introduced in a historical or magical world. As an exemple Yeva (named Beauty by her father), a young girl living in medieval Russia, is much more tough then we are. She doesn’t mind cold, she loves her dogs but also passionately loves hunting (she respects wildlife but doesn’t have any qualm about killing animal to survive, doing it sparsely and respectfully), what she prefers above all is spending days in snowy woods, where she’s perfectly able to survive without nothing more than a bow, a warm cape and some few things to make fire and treat small wounds.
Her predilection for coldness and snowy woods is really convincing, even if you prefer green and sunny meadows!
The second strong point is actually the personality of the retelling. This book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (no spoiler there!) but it isn’t at all a Disney version. Quite the opposite as it’s much inspired by Russian folklore, with a clever twist.
These qualities reminds me of Juliet Marillier’s wonderful books, especially Daughter of the Forest, which is the same kind of clever and personal fairy tale retelling.
An other quality is the subtlety of the Beast treatment. The duality between humanity and bestiality is cleverly showed along the story and the relation between Beauty and the Beast evolves very naturally and credibly from a violent situation toward tolerance, compassion and comprehension.
For this aspect I was something thinking about Sunshine by Robin McKinley while reading « Hunted ».
To conclude a very romantic story but not a rosy one: a truly romantic one, as only intelligent and wise stories can be.
(If you loved Juliet Marillier’s books you’ll probably loved this one too. And on the other hand… well, you know ^-^)
~ SHERWOOD ~
I was waiting for this book with great trepidation, having loved « Hunted » by the author and hoping for another miracle (the book as good inside as it’s beautiful outside ^-^).
By chance, I wasn’t disappointed : « Sherwood » was a wonderful read, with strong messages woven in it and a beautiful atmosphere.
First of all, you must know that it’s not a Robin Hood classical retelling, as a jolly story of Robin and his friends, with a woman instead of a man. The story is much more subtle, and grave. The underlined feminism isn’t overly simplified and can easily be transposed in a society where woman are supposed to present some precise feature and disposition to be considered feminine and attractive – as in ours.
The first part of the book is hugely centred around mourning and loss. Robin, Marian betrothed and best friend, is dead. Marian lives in a world where women have few rights and where who they marry will definitively affect the rest of their lives. Marian loved Robin and Robin loved Marian. It didn’t mind that Marian was always the best, the more accomplished at men’s arts, as archery. Robin was proud of her and happy to encourage her to be who she was, a tall and capable woman.
As the story unfolded, we understand more and more about the tight relation between Robin and Marian, through short flashback, well handled (I’m not a huge fan of flash-backs, so they need to be good, easy to read and useful!).
Marian doesn’t run away in the forest, « Yippee, I’m Robina Hood, I’m going to be the new heroine of the poor and oppressed! » No. The story is written in a credible way for the era; Marian loves her father, is respectful, and entirely aware of the risks to behave in a no womanly fashion. She realises that the death of Robin also meant the death of her futur and tries to survive in the new reality she’s been thrown in. When she’s led to help some people and takes some decisions, taking some huge risks, she also makes tremendous efforts to stay inconspicuous. She never decides, for instance, to take Robin’s place, the events occurs one after and other, always for good reasons and lead her to be, for some time, Hope for the poor and oppressed – as Robin’s ghost.
For all its gravity, « Sherwood » isn’t a sad book, and have its part of optimism, with a good ending for soft hearts as I have. The atmosphere is very romantic, in a literary, credible and insightful kind of way, you wouldn’t find any stereotypes (especially no Young Adult stereotypes, alas more and more frequent).
If you liked being surprised, you probably would be, the final twist is quite good and absolutely in harmony with the book tonality and the heroine’s personality.
A fantastic read, a book I know I will read again!
Now, next please 🙂
(« Neverland », to be published in January 2020)