I went on a fairytale re-telling marathon recently, the first of which was Artisans by Julie Reece, a gothic re-imaging of Beauty and the Beast that was utterly scrumptious.
After the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands. To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.
Instead of making things easier, her stepdad’s drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox. But Raven’s stepdad’s drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she’s ever known out of jail, or worse.
Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries’ clothing line, signing over her creative rights. Raven can’t imagine working for the arrogant and infuriating Gideon Maddox, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes. But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
The setting was quite unique and refreshing, contemporary yet with the flare of a historical gothic romantic thriller.
Raven was a great character to root for. Life had dealt her misfortune after misfortune and yet her her compassion and courage barely takes a beating. She turned her struggles to strength and became a hero to herself and to those around her.
Gideon initially comes off as a clichéd charming bastard but as Ms Reece devolves the mysteries surrounding him, he transforms into a multi-dimensional character.
What I liked most about Raven and Gideon’s relationship was that while it evolved in true fairytale fashion, thrilling and swoon-worthy, it remained in sync with Raven’s growth as a character throughout the novel.
Dane, Maggie and Cole made an excellent ensemble of supporting characters, the various dynamics giving the narrative volume and substance. They allowed us to see Raven from multiple points of reference, painting a thorough picture of our protagonist.
Finally, the unique paranormal twist took my breath way. I barely saw it coming even though Ms Reece left clever little clues throughout the book. The Artisans’ legacy was an intriguing and a fascinating one and my only complaint is that I woud have liked Reece to elaborate on the lore.
The Bad and the Ugly
I believe at the time of reading the novel, more than a couple of weeks ago, I had a few little qualms about it but they all seem to have evaporated now.
I will mention that the pacing lagged in some portions, but only by a thin margin. That being said, Ms Reece had already captured my undivided attention by then so I could not put it down in any event.
In conclusion, The Artisans is a unique modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast filled with mystery, romance and wonderful characters as well as a brilliant paranormal twist. If you love a good upgrade to a beloved fairytale, look no further than Julie Reece’s The Artisans. It will not disappoint.