Review - "Truth in the Dark" by Amy Lane
Beautiful take on Beauty and the Beast
Very Highly Recommended
In a small coastal town on the Archipelago, Naef was born. Club footed, awkward, pained and shunned, he was nonetheless loved and cherished by his sister Gwen and his mother. Gwen was his protector, companion and confidant. He could at least feel normal with her.
Then, when he was but twelve, the young men of the village, in the way such boys will do, attacked and violated Naef. In that moment, the young man decided there must be no value to him. So he started to become as twisted and pained inside as he appeared on the outside.
And his sister Gwen, ever the guardian, took her knives and settled the score. Nobody would harm her brother again. And he took up his knives, apprenticed to the woodworker of the village, and grew very adept at making finely carved items and small little knives to keep those who wished for trouble in line. And took on the nickname the silly children have him - Knife.
So he grows up, more and more isolated and bitter.
"My insides matched my outsides...I had spent years...I had spent my entire life twisting myself inside so that I could match the body and the face with the fates the fates plagued me with."
And then one day, Gwen meets a nice young man, a captain on a ship from the harbor. He wants to marry her but she won't leave Knife. So Knife strikes a deal - Gwen's suitor has a cousin looking for a companion for a year. He would get paid and leave, Gwen would marry her beau, and his mother would leave the village and they would have a happy life without him.
And when Airie-Smith shows up to strike the deal, Knife sees he is cursed in his own way. Because Airie-Smith is under a curse, forced into the shape of a lion who can walk and talk like a man. So Knife agrees to the bargain. He will accompany the man to his home on an island south, and at the end of one year, perform on small, regrettable and unpleasant task.
So off he goes, and when he nears the island, he discovers that all the people on the island are cursed to take the form of animals, like their Lord. And the task he is to do - it will help break the curse. And when the sailors on the ship carrying him turn into monkeys, he himself wakes to find...he is in the body of his dreams.
The two grow closer, as friends, then more, as the year progresses. When the deadline approaches, Knife discovers what the small regrettable task he is to perform is.
Will he be able to do it? Will the curse be broken? And what will the costs be to everyone involved?
Amy Lane has taken the Beauty and the Beast legend, twisted it like Naef's leg and spine and created a work of beauty, pain and richness. The love, the sacrifice, the terrible cruelty of the task - all combined to make this beautifully imagined and lovingly executed tale one of the most touching pieces I have read. Ever.
This stunning book grabbed me from page one had had me in tears - real tears - in the first five minutes of reading.
And the prose. Just so damned good.
"Every beat of my heart ached like an abscessed tooth."
"What must it be like to have such faith in the world, in plans, in your own ability to control your fate? It was contagious, that's what it was. I could not help it. I caught his hope like a plague."
"I could not disparage - not even in harsh jest - a man who offered me the kindness of touch."
"A man like me...a man like me did not take kindness for weakness. Kindness in the face of all the tiny knives the world had to throw at a body - that was real strength."
And then, then the one that was a knife in my heart.
"It was the capacity for love that made me beautiful after all."
I felt beautiful.