There is a monster in the forest…
Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects…
Before I begin to tell you my thoughts and feelings about this lovely book I have a big fat and horrible secret to admit to you all…. this is my first Zoe Marriott read.
Yes I know shock horror and I should probably be burned at the stake for this treachery and massive YA offence; but before you get your pitchforks let me tell you what I thought, and let me solemnly promise that I will be making amends to right this terrible wrong!
Barefoot on the Wind is a wonderful and clever retelling of one of the best (in my humble opinion) fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast.
As with many retellings Zoe Marriott put her own imprint on this story. The transposition and adaptation of the original story line to a Japanese environment, lay out and way of life was incredibly faithfully done. The village, the villagers, the rules and regulations of that period in time down to the Japanese denominations for each member of society and status were respected, making me feel like I’d actually stepped into a Japanese mountain village that was being plagued by a beast and I was about to witness the unfurling of this story.
I was all geared up with my cup of green tea to sit back and enjoy what I thought was merely a transcribed and slightly altered fairy tale to suit the new set up, when Zoe decided that actually she hadn’t quite finished with her adaptation.
It soon became clear that from the original tale, all that was taken were the bare bones, in a manner of speaking.
Now before I go any further I should tell you all that I am a massive fairy tale fan, and will happily read any retelling and any new story that comes my way, but what I came across here was pretty wonderful and a very original take on fairy tales with a pinch of modern thinking.
Although you will catch a glimpse of Belle in Hana-San’s kindness and love for her family, and you will perceive some of the Beast’s hard earned humility in Itsuki, these two sets of characters are as different as they are alike. Zoe Marriott’s Belle is a fighter, a hunter and does not fear the dangerous dark woods that have claimed many a life. She is proud and strong and although her hierarchical society does not approve, she holds her ground steadfast and fights for what she believes is right even if that means going into the beast’s lair alone. Zoe’s Beast, that Hana dubs Itsuki, is the gentlest creature you will ever meet. He cares for all those that are harmed regardless of by whom and why. He has a big heart and has worked hard to learn what patience, humility, true love and respect mean.
Although initially perplexed I soon came to love these two characters and how their interactions were so similar and yet so different from those that I have loved and grown up with.
As I mentioned before Zoe merely used the bare bones of the classic and then built her own story giving it flesh and thoughts to shape it differently and make us readers reflect.
As per all fairy tales there is a lesson to be learned, and whilst deconstructing and recreating her tale our lovely author did not forget this vital part. Whilst the Disney we all know and love focused on romance and the signature happily ever after, Zoe Marriott decided to centre her story around Hana-San, her journey to self discovery, forgiveness and its ripple effect on the surrounding characters and, indeed, the story. Although romance and love is undoubtedly a main thread to it, Zoe Marriott reminds us that the types of love that can change someone also include the love between a family, siblings and friends. She reminds us that love’s close counterpart and partner in crime is hate and the line between these two at times has been known to be thin, thin and full of its own emotions ranging from anger to sorrow.
You might ask be asking yourself what else is different aside from the characters, the set up, the nature of the beast, the strength of the belle and the society whose rules they live by?
Well I will let you figure that one out for yourself, but what I will tell you is that this is a very cleverly constructed Japanese fairy tale retelling, and that like Hana-San you will have to walk into the dark woods and tread lightly on the dark magic that has cursed more than just a man, and you will have to heed the advice of the trees and the wind that blows through them because a monster, a beast roams the woods but the two are not always one and the same and every individual is capable of monstrous things.
Barefoot on the Wind proved to be more than just a simple fairy tale with a different back drop. Zoe Marriott brought with it her own set of characters and morales to teach us. Despite the simplistic story, she managed to build into it new thoughts and feelings giving it a new dimension and complexity that I had not previously appreciated.
Verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this tale and will happily be getting lost in these dark woods again with Hana-San and Itsuki.
Reviewed by Pruedence