It was a beast, and yet not a beast. A man, yet not a man. It stood tall on two legs and was clothed in a long coat and boots. Its intelligent eyes were of a tigerish, glowing amber, set in a hairy face like a bear’s; it had a tawny mane like a lion’s, while its open mouth displayed teeth as white and sharp as a wolf. I knew at once what it was though I’d never before heard of one that could take such a mingled form. Abartyen. Shapeshifter. Man-beast
Since the death of her father, Natasha’s family has fallen on hard times. So when someone must deliver a special painting that might turn their fortunes around, Natasha knows she must go. On the way home, a terrible blizzard forces her to seek shelter and, just as she thinks all is lost, she stumbles upon a beautiful mansion. Once inside she soon senses that something strange is afoot. When she finds a perfect red rose blooming in spite of the cold, she reaches for it – and finds herself soon coming face to face with the rose’s owner. Her terror at this fearsome man-creature gradually changes until she realises she loves him. But while that love could free him, nothing is simple, and instead Natasha must undertake a dangerous journey to save her new love.
Scarlet in the Snow is a beautiful, engrossing fantasy for teen and adult readers. Readers will recognise this as a retelling of the fairy tale most commonly called Beauty and the Beast, but should not expect that this means they will know what happens, as Masson has truly made the story her own, blending fantasy and intrigue in a wonderful tale of adventure and romance.
The exquisite cover is a good indication of the quality of the take within.
Scarlet in the Snow, by Sophie Masson
Random House, 2013
Available from good bookstores and online.