Published November 2013 by Sky Pony Press
This book started out so great.
I have always been fascinated by the “Beauty and the Beast” theme repeated in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre expands the children’s tale about a young woman who leaves everything to live with a beast and how they both grow to love one another to a metaphor of transformation focusing on themes such as traditional gender roles, authenticity and the nature of suffering.
Jane’s childhood at Gateshead, where she is emotionally and physically abused by her aunt and cousins; and her education at Lowood School, where she acquires friends and role models but also suffers privations and oppression, are where Charlotte Bronte in particular deviates from the fairy-tale retelling. Roses by G.R. Mannering inverts the story and tries a re-telling of “The Beauty and the Beast” in a “Jane Eyre”-flair.
The story takes place in a mediaeval world full of magic where magic beings and those suspected of magic blood are haunted and feared. There was something akin to a genocide called The Magic Cleansing in the neighboring country called “The Neighbour”. The anti-magical movement in this other country gains over the years more and more supporters and spills over into Beauty’s country. Death, destruction and persecution follow. Yet, the diverse world, its history and society are never fully explored, the wars fought between the Magic Blood and those without magic as well as the political ramifications remain shrouded.
The inconsistent world-building is further reinforced by an erratic character composition. Questions such as the whereabouts of Beauty’s parentage, the reasons of Beast’s bane, the importance of the legend foretold are not addressed in a satisfactory manner. Roses follows Beauty from her birth to adolescence, a neglected and mistreated girl reminiscent of Jane Eyre’s childhood. The focus certainly is on Beauty and her childhood suffering while Beast remains a rather one-dimensional character and the transformative power of the love-story is completely neglected by the author. From the moment on when Beauty leaves everything behind and joins the Beast in his enchanted castle the story progresses in haste, leaving Jane Eyre completely behind, adding nothing new to the archetypical fairy-tale and brings out the author’s laziness in world-building.
Where Jane Eyre’s characters form understanding and transform each other, defying all social influences and stereotypes, Roses by G.R. Mannering just falls flat, providing no insight, no reflection on the power of transformation. It is not enough for Beauty to learn reading, or kill her evil cousin or kiss the Beast! That HEA simply is not what Beauty and the Beast or Jane Eyre is about. Beauty in this story never really develops an appreciation for the Beast, for his suffering, she never really needs him for her own growing-up and her non-existent transformation. In Roses by G.R. Mannering Beauty leaves her father because she thinks she murdered someone. She flees her home not because she wants to save her father but because she has to escape.
This story could have been so much more. Instead it feels fragmentary and incomplete.