A gothic YA fantasy debut about a young woman striving to break her sister’s curse and stop the killing in her small French town
Seventeen-year-old Marie mixes perfumes to sell on market day in her small eighteenth-century French town. She wants to make enough to save a dowry for her sister, Ama, in hopes of Ama marrying well and Marie living in the level of freedom afforded only to spinster aunts. But her perfumes are more than sweet scents in cheap, cut-glass bottles: A certain few are laced with death. Marie laces the perfume delicately—not with poison but with a hint of honeysuckle she’s trained her sister to respond to. Marie marks her victim, and Ama attacks. But she doesn’t attack as a girl. She kills as a beast.
Marking Ama’s victims controls the damage to keep suspicion at bay. But when a young boy turns up dead one morning, Marie is forced to acknowledge she might be losing control of Ama. And if she can’t control her, she’ll have to cure her. Marie knows the only place she’ll find the cure is in the mansion where Ama was cursed in the first place, home of Lord Sebastien LeClaire. But once she gets into the mansion, she discovers dark secrets hidden away—secrets of the curse, of Lord Sebastien . . . and of herself.
“Warning: This book contains violence, depictions of alcoholism, the death of a child and depictions of mental health struggles.”
Stalking shadows is a gothic fantasy novel written by Cyla Panin. It reimagines the tale Beauty and the Beast and does a wonderful job of using myths, such as the Beast of Gèvaudan, to create a gothic atmosphere that many readers could fall in love with.
It is surprising, to say the least, that this was Cyla Panin’s debut novel. It was written so well that I could barely believe it. Some of the lines she wrote were even worthy of my favourite quotes list, and that’s saying a lot.
Whilst I have no doubt that gothic fantasy readers will fall in love with this novel, it was a little harder for me to get my head around it. Some of the concepts were a little strange and the gothic atmosphere wasn’t one that I particularly enjoyed but the story did keep me on the edge of my seat and I loved how the author wrote the relationship dynamics throughout the novel. There were many aspects that I could appreciate and the writing style was definitely a good choice.
Another thing that I absolutely adored was the fact that the main character was not perfect by any means. Instead, she was extremely flawed and was sometimes hard to root for. She does many horrible things throughout the book and it is difficult for readers to overlook the actions she takes. Even though it is made quite clear that the lying, murder and the other horrific things she does are done out of love for her sister, they are not excused in any shape or form.
The novel does have underlying traits that have been inspired by Beauty and the Beast. However, I do not agree with it being marketed as a “B&B” retelling since it does much more than retell the classic tale and instead reimagines it.
If I had to criticize one thing in this book, it would have to be how the story ended. I felt like the ending was a little rushed and predictable and I wish that the resolution had been met with a little more resistance.
All in all, I found the book to be a fantastic read and I would recommend it to those who enjoy gothic fantasy novels.
“This review was done on a work of fiction, In no way does the reviewer condone any actions that may have taken place in the book.”
About the Author
Cyla Panin is an MG, YA and Adult Author who prefers to look at the world through a dusting of magic.
After spending most of her childhood wanting to escape into the wonderful worlds her favourite authors created, she’s now using her own words to craft magica places. When not writing, Cyla can be found playing dinosaurs with her two young boys, watching swashbuckling and/or period TV shows with her husband, and, of course, reading.
Her YA debut, STALKING SHADOWS will be out with Amulet, Abrams Fall 2021. She is represented by Chloe Seager of the Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV, and Film Agency.