I’ve always had a somewhat irrational fear of fairytale retellings. To be honest, I don’t generally like the original fairytales, so no amount of twisting and stretching is going to make me like the basic plot. At least that’s what I thought.
After spending several years of skirting around fairytale retellings, the last few months one kept popping out at me: The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz. It’s part of a new Beaumont and Beasley series. Based of off the title, I knew it must be some kind of Beauty and the Beast story, which happens to be a tale that I tend to dislike more than the others. *apologetic grin* So I kept ignoring the book without knowing anything about it.
But then I noticed a few things. It’s self-published by Kyle Robert Shultz, who happens to one of the funnier and more brilliant authors in the twitterverse. The story is set in an alternate version of the 1920’s. With magic. And monsters. And a detective who firmly, absolutely, completely does not believe in anything magical.
Sign me up.
I finished reading it very quickly and thought, “Yes. THIS is how retellings should be done.”
Let me tell you why:
Fairytales aren’t real. Private eye Nick Beasley knows this is true because his job is all about debunking magical myths, monsters, and magicians. Afterlands is a world of science, not magic, and Nick always proves this to be true.
Until, one day, he doesn’t.
After agreeing to work with Mr. Beaumont – one of the leaders of the underground magic society – to hunt down a so-called magical rose, Nick finds himself in an odd situation. This rose isn’t just an ancient artifact as he’s expected. It has the power to transform people into hideous beasts, something that Mr. Beaumont intends to use for insidious purposes.
Instead of proving that the rose is a non-magical artifact, Nick becomes living proof that it is, in fact, the exact opposite. With the help of Mr. Beaumont’s off-kilter daughter, Cordelia, Nick must find a way to save both himself and the city from the clutches of the rose and the man who wields it.
Some stories are serious. Some are entertaining. Some are fun. And others are funny. As in, stupid-smile-plastered-on-you-face-the-whole-time-you’re-reading-the-book funny.
The Beasts of Talesend falls into all of these categories, but dominates the latter one. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with such hilarious dialogue and excellently funny first person narration.
This is the type of story where all of the elements on their own are very good. The clever world-building: An amalgamation of several different fairytale elements, all set in 1920’s England. Black market of magic included. The witty writing style: A funny, ironic narration that reminded me slightly of a non-sci-fi version of Douglas Adams. The epic characters: The annoyed, disbelieving Nick, the quirky Cordelia, and the hilarious but more-than-just-a-funny-face Crispin (Nick’s brother, and, incidentally, my favorite character).
If all separated out and left to their own devices, they would work well. But when wrapped up into a single story? Sheer brilliance.
It took me about half of a chapter to decide that I really, really liked the book. And another two chapters to decided that I loved it and wanted a sequel immediately.
This is unlike any retelling I’ve ever read. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that it qualifies as a re-telling. It was a very loose reimagining that included many fairytale elements: The mirror from Snow White, the rose from Beauty and the Beast, and a flying carpet that was an epic nod to Aladdin. Each twist on the fairytale world was original…and often made more sense than the source material.
Of course, the fairytale element wasn’t the only part of the story that felt fresh. The characters that we are at first led to assume to be comic relief (Crispin, and, on a lesser level: Cordelia) end up having complex and interesting backstories. The hard-boiled detective Nick is lovably skeptical with a soft-side. All of the characters were equally fleshed-out and the dynamics between each of them only made each character more clearly defined.
My only (very minor) complaint is that I never felt any of the characters were in danger, so even though the stakes were technically fairly high, I never felt like they were. That being said, this type of clever, fun story doesn’t always need the ‘believable danger’ factor, so it wasn’t necessarily to its detriment.
If you’re looking for a hilarious story with excellent writing, magical elements, creative world-building, and great characters, then The Beasts of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz is for you. If you aren’t looking for this type of story: Shush. Yes, you are. Read this book.
The second book in the series is coming this summer (YAY!), so you can click here to read the synopsis and start getting excited for that.
Have you read The Beasts of Talesend? Tell me about your favorite parts/characters (*cough* If it’s not Crispin, then you’re wrong)! If you have yet to read this, go buy it on Amazon. Seriously. Go.