SciFi Monkeys and TANSTAAFL Press brings you a review of
At One’s Beast by Rachel Barnard
Overall Grade: C+
At One’s Beast tore at my heartstrings. It made me want to love it but I only liked it. The uneven tone and inability to make up its mind of what story it wanted to be kept me out of love like that annoying laugh or the confession of tax cheating might keep you from loving a life partner. Doesn’t keep you from going to dinner with them but it doesn’t become a permanent relationship.
In the village of Frey, people yearly purified themselves by casting their negative thoughts into the well. A young boy, Zosimos, dreams of and then falls into the well. When he is rescued his body and mind are corrupted by these evil thoughts. Terrified the villagers exile him as a beast.
Over time the villagers become convinced if they don’t sacrifice one of their young people to the Beast that he will come and visit harm and evil upon them. The mayor’s daughter, Alcina, is chosen as the sacrifice for this year.
After suffering the fear and anger of the townsfolk, Alcina is driven into the woods. Vowing to herself to kill the beast she comes with a knife to do the job. Instead when the Beast saves her life from the largest predator in the forest, she hardens her heart against him but can’t dispatch him when the opportunity arises. When he cares for her and shows her the ways of the forest she must reevaluate all the things she’s learned.
I absolutely loved the start of this fairy tale. With the innocent child having been burdened with all of this anger and hatred and changed forever because of it. The writing to show that it was a fairy tale also made me rejoice. The skill in crafting such prose is a completely different skill set than the normal bit of scifi.
The bewitching village of Frey and its surroundings conjured up images of a cross between something out of the Jungle Book and Whoville all running through Tim Burton’s twisted mind. Mull that image over for a bit. The setting was engaging and provocative enough to keep my mind going.
Not So Good:
This fairy tale couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. At some points it wanted to be Beauty and the Beast, yet others the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and yet others it had its own voice. I would have liked more of the latter than either of the former. With its intriguing start, I felt cheated at the sameness of some of these other tales woven into it.
The ending didn’t come together for me. It didn’t have the same look and feel as the rest of the story. This is really only the one time it didn’t feel like a fairy tale and it really didn’t make much sense to me. It seemed rushed and not entirely logical. Again, it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.