A True, Honest Look at Beauty
In the Twelve Realms there lives a man who covets life. He lurks in the shadows, intent upon stealing that which sustains his perpetual existence: true beauty. Princess Caityn’s loveliness reaches from what the eye sees to the very marrow of her soul. The thief’s covetous heart desires the life her beauty possesses and will stop at nothing to take it all.
The Beauty Thief is about Princess Caityn, who must recover her beauty after it has been ripped from her. When she ceases to understand what beauty truly is—is precisely the time when she needs it most.
Although Caityn wants to marry the man of her choice, she ends up with Prince Theiander, and she soon realizes that he is the one she’s wanted all along. Days before their wedding, The Beauty Thief is determined to steal Caityn’s beauty and ruin everything.
I loved the wit and humor put into Caityn’s character. After her change, that is, when she loses her beauty inside and out, she stares at characters with nothing inside her heart, and I can feel that emptiness. Caityn must struggle against the things her mind is telling her but that her heart is denying. It is an interesting dynamic that Ritchey nailed in my opinion. I remember asking myself how it would be possible to comprehend things but not know their significance, like a baby, but one that has grown up and seen the world in the way that an adult does, but that can no longer feel the things inside it.
The Beauty Thief is told in third person past tense and from multiple character points of view. The majority of the story focuses on the world from Caityn and Theiandar’s perspectives, but there are a couple minor characters’ as well as bad guys’ thrown in for good measure.
This story reminded me of some magical mix of Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and Nintendo franchise, Fire Emblem (but in book form), specifically Nintendo Gamecube’s Path of Radiance title. There was an element of damsel in distress here, but it was told in a uniquely fresh way, that set it apart from the things I mentioned above. It was definitely its own story.
The Twelve Realms is the name of the fictional world in which this story takes place, where each Realm is known for a different export, landscape, or ruling family. I thought the feel of this new world was so genuine and authentic, and as I read I felt like I was part of the entourage, or playing my way through a video game. That’s always a huge plus when a book can do that for me.
The setting of this story is a “sword and board” place, filled with swords, shields, and bows and arrows, where “arrows beat swords . . . at least from this distance.” (That line in the book made me chuckle). The presence of fantasy is strong with the way Ritchey names places and things like Rubinthynium (the ancient name for Ruby), and the olden ways that the Beauty Thief draws his power (yes the Beauty Thief is also a character) and some of the magic involved.
I liked that this tale took me someplace new, even from the very first page.
The world and colorful characters kept me enthralled throughout. The Beauty Thief (the character) was an amorphous, dark abyss to me, and I believe that made him even more of a captivating villain. Theiander and Idra were two of my favorites and of course Caityn. The journey she goes through in this book is paced well and I love each and every little transformation she goes through. Her and Theiander’s love had a timeless, fantastical feel to it. Caityn and Idra’s interactions were always sharp and witty, full of snappy dialogue, and Ritchey did an excellent job of showing their relationship and changes throughout the story.
There isn’t much I would change about this story. I think for its intended genre and audience—fiction, fantasy and YA—it delivered on all fronts. Ritchey has a mastery over her characters, and her tone is refreshing. It’s lyrical and light but at the same time there are some deep but subtle messages throughout.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
He grinned at her, but his smile faded at the sight of sorrow. “Your family is wonderful, too, Princess. They love you. Until now, you’ve been sheltered and protected from all harm and given more love than your heart could hold.” His brow furrowed. He could see what he said wasn’t helping. “I feel that I say the wrong thing to you. I’m sorry for it.”
She looked at him as they stepped lightly along the muddy path. “Oh, I’m sure what you said was fine. I was distracted. I haven’t lost my memories of my family, but I can’t feel them. It seems strange to remember things but not grasp their meaning. I think feelings—especially love, it would seem—direct much of our lives . . . maybe.”
I love the dynamics created between Ritchey’s characters and her portrayal of what it actually means to feel something. She does not tell the reader this—I believe she shows it quite well.
I wholeheartedly recommend The Beauty Thief to anyone who enjoys YA, fantasy, fiction, or the chance to be taken to a world outside his or her own.
I am looking forward to Book 2 in the series: Captive Hope!
Rachael Ritchey has always loved to tell stories. As a mom to four growing young people, Rachael spends countless hours recounting true stories and fictional tales. Her favorite genres are fantasy and historical fiction. Rachael’s passion for a good story doesn’t end there, though. She started writing YA fantasy fiction to create new worlds she’s proud to share with her kids and you. Rachael lives in Eastern Washington with her husband and children, who all wish they had a dog.
If you’ve also read this book, let me know what you thought in the comments!
This book was released on March 1st, 2015.