Stalking Shadows

Abrams/Amulet. Sept. 2021. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781419752650.
Gr 8 Up–Marie has spent the last year of her life choosing who from her village deserves to die. Her sister Ama went to the big house as a servant and came back cursed to be a beast. Marie only ever marks drunks and vagrants for Ama to kill, but when children start winding up dead, Marie can’t help but wonder if she and Ama are losing control of the beast. Determined to bring an end to the curse, Marie sets off to the big house where she convinces Lord Sebastian to take her in after claiming she can help his young brother, Lucien, who is dying of consumption. Panin takes the traditional Beauty and the Beast tale and turns it on its head by making the beast a sibling rather than a love interest. This gives Marie’s character an exceptional amount of depth as she struggles to balance her desire to do what’s right and newfound feelings for Sebastian and Lucien with the love she has for Ama and the need to break her curse no matter the cost. The pacing feels slow at times, when background is relayed, and too fast at other times, when major revelations are made, but it all comes together in the end to create a touching story of sibling love and learning to accept yourself and others for who they are. Sebastian and Lucien are mixed race (they have a Black mother and white father), and all remaining characters read white.
VERDICT A worthy retelling for most fantasy shelves.

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