Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time, and the Disney adaptation is one of my favourite animated films. It isn't without its flaws, however. Library envy and adorable talking tea cup aside, the story is dated and sexist, and it's doesn't make sense that while the Prince is the one being punished for being selfish, it is Belle who has to learn to look past his beastly exterior to break the curse. So when Zoë Marriott described her take on the classic fairy tale as a feminist interpretation, I was intrigued. And when she read an excerpt ending on a massive cliffhanger, I was most definitely hooked.
Hana has been told her entire life not to go far into the woods. The dangers that lie within have taken several of her family members, including her older brother, a loss which her parents never recovered from. But when he father is taken by the monster in the forest, Hana ignores all the warnings and goes in after him. She finds her father but he is in a deep magical sleep, and Hana knows that the only way she can save him is to confront the beast.
Yet not all is as it seems within the forest. When Hana awakens after being attacked by the monster herself she meets Itsuki, a boy who lives in the forest at the heart of what she believes to be the monster's territory. While recovering from her wounds Hana learns some of the secrets hiding among the trees and she has to decide, once and for all, whether she will finally listen to her parents and avoid angering the beast even further, or battle the evil that brought so much loss and despair to the people in her village.
Barefoot on the Wind has definite hints of the Beauty and the Beast origin story, but it feels more like an 'inspired by' take on the classic tale rather than a straight adaptation. Zoë Marriott has taken two incredibly well-known characters but has given her own spin on them, creating entirely new people that still work within the source mythology. The beauty at the heart of this version is a feisty hunter, a young woman who has been burdened by taking care of her family from a young age. The beast... he isn't all that he seems and his back story is imaginative and solid, giving a much more interesting angle for redemption.
Without a doubt the most fascinating part of this version though is the unique setting. Most fairy tales I'm familiar with are set in a re-imagined Europe from medieval times and are filled with castles, knights, princesses and dragons. Barefoot on the Wind, however, takes place in a fairy tale Japan, a location which the author previously explored within her loose retelling of Cinderella; Shadows on the Moon. The books I read rarely have a Japanese setting, let alone a fairy tale one inspired by Japan and I loved this unique aspect of the book, which made it an even more memorable read than it already was.
Barefoot on the Wind is beautiful and delicate as much as it's empowering and feisty. With an atmospheric, almost ethereal, setting and author Zoë Marriott taking the source material in unexpected directions, this is a fairy tale like no other. It has elements that ring familiar but it's very much its own story, making this stunningly crafted novel a worthy addition to the classics.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Barefoot on the Wind is published by Walker Books and you can buy the novel from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
Connect with the authorWebsite: www.zoemarriott.com