The Beast’s Heart is a retelling of ‘The Beauty and the Beast’, set in France (though it’s unclear at exactly what era, I think), and narrated by the Beast. I started it with some trepidation, since the Beast’s narration in the opening chapter didn’t quite appeal. I mean, it’s not especially surprising that the Beast is kind of self-absorbed before he becomes the Beast, but that was the immediate impression I had of his character as the Beast as well from his rather fussy narration. He never particularly sounded Beastly, you know?
That said, once we got over the part where he tricked Isabeau’s father into thinking he’d kill him if he didn’t return with Isabeau, things began to improve. I do love retellings of this story, and it was interesting to get things from this perspective — though there weren’t exactly any surprises. Shallcross doesn’t do anything particularly revolutionary with the story at all, except perhaps for the Fairy that loved his grandmother.
Isabeau manages to feel fairly real; unlike some versions of Beauty, she’s not too perfect — she has her pettinesses, and she’s not the cleverest most amazing person of all, just a caring young woman who likes books and music and drawing and getting to have a rather indolent existence. The glimpses we get of her sisters work for me, too, though it all felt fairly close to Robin McKinley’s Beauty.
I don’t think this is the freshest version of the story; worth it if you have an itch for ‘Beauty and the Beast’, or you’re particularly fond of collecting versions of it, but not something I’d go out of my way for. That said, I read it in a few sessions, compelled to speed through it, so it wasn’t bad either — it just didn’t bring anything startling to a story that has been done many times.