The Beauty of the Wolf by Wray Delaney – REVIEW
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…
I received a complimentary copy of this book from HQ. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“I knew then nothing could be trusted, that all things, seen and unseen have many sides to them.”
When I heard Sally Gardner (under the pen name Wray Delaney) was writing a gender-swapped retelling of Beauty and the Beast I had to request a copy from the publisher. This was my first adult book by the author so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m so pleased to say that I loved this deliciously dark and twisted fairytale. It has echoes of the often disturbing Grimm’s Fairy Tales but melded with modern themes such as gender fluidity and body positivity. I’ve read quite a few negative reviews of the book but if you’re aware that this is a firmly adult fairy tale without any Disneyfication then you won’t be disappointed.
“So few of us are born to be ourselves; we are but the dreams of lovers, of mothers and fathers who long for us to step where their feet never dared.”
There are three points of view in this story: the Sorceress, Beast, and Beauty. Together they weave a powerful tale exploring the transformative nature of love and society’s cruelty towards anything deemed as other. With the Elizabethan setting, it was fitting that many of Shakespeare’s themes are also woven into the narrative, especially gender and sexuality issues such as cross-dressing, homosexuality, and the concept of identity. Using the idea of beauty as a curse, the reader is invited to question whether beauty can corrupt – is there power and danger promised by beautiful men? Presenting the beast as a woman also allows the author to explore contemporary ideas about body positivity and the many societal pressures experienced by women.
“I did what men do when the truth is too sharp to hold: they sheath it in a lie.”
The beautifully lyrical story was punctuated by a flowery writing style and permeated by powerful imagery. Echoing other fairy tales, the elaborate prose suited the subject matter perfectly, emphasising the narrative’s themes. The style is similar to Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Elana K Arnold’s Damsel, so, if you enjoyed those, then you’re sure to love The Beauty of the Wolf. I would highly recommend this wonderful retelling that will haunt your thoughts for days.