This book felt like more allegory than story, and at 1800 words it felt like I sped through it. Although I’m much less familiar with the original “Beauty and the Beast” than I was with “The Fisherman and His Wife,” this retelling felt less like the Disney version and more like Taming of the Shrew.
Preeti has the evil eye of bad luck, according to her neighbors. After her mother died and her father’s merchant caravans were lost to bandits, she’s lived low profile with her father in a small village shunned even by her sister and brother-in-law.
Then a handsome rajah tells her he’s taken her bad luck on himself. Is this the beginning of better times?
Within days, classic fairy tale circumstances bring her to live in the magical palace of the demon-ish Rakshasa enduring his daily marriage proposal, all while the handsome rajah sings to her in her dreams – and in her waking hours.
While I wasn’t always clear what was a dream and what was real (to be fair, neither was Preeti) I was clear on one thing – Preeti was falling for the handsome young rajah while belonging, in some sense, to the terrible Rakshasa. This brought unaccustomed tension for me. Save me from the love triangle uneasiness! 😨
And yet — the ending brought the spiritual elements to a new pitch. Do we really see the world straight? Or must we turn our vision upside down to finally be the right way up? This is why I said it was more allegory than fairy tale: while flirty warrior princes are not exactly my thing, sacrificial love is always awesome.
Last word about the setting: the environment didn’t feel as immersively foreign as it did in Prince of Fishes, which is strange (Indian vs. Eastern European/Greek) – but then again perhaps because I was anticipating an unfamiliar culture the ways in which it was already familiar stood out to me. There are enough small details, however, for the people’s way of life to come alive.
And there’s sacrificial love: not the trite, Hollywood type, but the world-shifting, C. J. Cherryh type. Like the Real type – the type seen in God’s overwhelming love for petty, rebellious mankind. Need I say more?