Next up: “Heart’s Blood” by Juliet Marillier.
A loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast; I didn’t realize it was at first. As with most of Marillier’s books, it has a distinct celtic flavor.
As I said, this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in Ireland during the Norman invasion (12th century). The main character is Caitrin, an 18-year-old girl who is on the run from an abusive and unwanted suitor. Her flight takes her to Whistling Tor, a dark and forbidding fortress ruled over by the bad-tempered and physically crippled Lord Anluan, who suffers under an ancestral curse. Despite his gruffness and the curse haunting the fortress, Caitrin makes a place for herself there, and breaks through Anluan’s harsh and defensive exterior to find the good man hiding inside.
However, conflict comes calling to Whistling Tor, a threat in three parts: the curse, which Caitrin is attempting to understand and break using Anluan’s family’s written records, the Norman invaders at the gates, and Caitrin’s own past.
I liked this story. There’s a creepy, almost horror-story vibe to the curse that lays on Whistling Tor. Rather than talking furniture or housegoods, Whistling Tor is beset by revenants and whispering voices. Some of them do act as Lumiere and Cogsworth did in the Disney version, becoming something like friends and confidantes to Caitrin, but there was always an underlying darkness to them.
Sometimes retellings of Beauty and the Beast toe the line with the Beast being cruel or abusive. While Anluan is sharp-tongued and gruff, he was also a sympathetic figure, and you saw examples of his sense of duty and responsibility in the story. It didn’t really seem strange that Caitrin would become enamored of him, or he of her. Anluan’s deformity did seems sometimes to be blown out of proportion, but I guess that, considering the time-period this was set in, it would have been seen as that bad.
Caitrin’s character was pretty good. She’s presented as a sort of weak character at first, on purpose, because she’s supposed to grow throughout the book until the end, when she finds she is strong enough to save both herself and Anluan. This growth isn’t super apparent, and it seems a little sudden in the end, but not enough to really throw you out of the story. All in all, the book is a satisfying read, though it isn’t the first of Marillier’s works that I’d recommend.
Abuse from Caitrin’s family.