A lyrical, remarkably unusual retelling breeds new life into the “Beauty and the Beast” tale.
Beauty is an ill-fitting name for a child whose silver-colored skin, white hair and amethyst-colored eyes elicit fearful reactions from nearly everyone who crosses her path. Raised with cruelty by her distant aunt, Beauty finds solace in her friendship with a groom named Owaine and the horses he cares for. When danger threatens their city, Owaine obtains permission to adopt Beauty and take her back to his homeland in the faraway hills, where she finds purpose helping him tame wild horses. But Beauty is plagued by dark dreams and visions, and when Owaine returns from a trip dying but bearing a rare rose, Beauty journeys into the forbidden forest to parley with the Beast who cursed her foster father. Mannering’s beautifully written, third-person prose unfolds at a nearly perfect pace, cleverly placing scenes that shed light on various mysteries at the beginning of each of the five sections of the story. The ending, which feels rushed and is plagued by incongruity and unanswered questions, does not diminish the impressiveness of this debut.
A great choice for fans of high fantasy and fairy-tale retellings; they will hope for a sequel. (Fantasy. 12 & up)