Review - Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott


I believed I could find the monster. It had been found by countless others before me, after all, who never even meant to seek it. And I was sure I had as good a chance as anyone to deal it a death blow; it would not be used to prey which fought back, and there had never been any animal on this mountain that could escape me once I laid eyes upon it. These things I knew without question.
But if I stopped to think, then I would have to confront the knowledge that killing the beast and surviving it were not at all the same thing ...
Barefoot on the Wind - Zoe Marriott. PP. 77 - 78.

For a century, the people of Hana’s village have fallen victim to the beast which roams the Dark Woods. At the full moon, villagers disappear. Villagers like Hana’s grandmother, and her brother Kyo. Hana has not forgiven herself for her role in Kyo’s disappearance, and no matter how hard she tries to be both son and daughter to her parents, her father will not speak to her properly.

Then Hana’s father is found at the edge of the woods, the first person taken by the beast to return home. He remains in an enchanted sleep, a sleep which might be broken if somebody were to kill the beast. Nobody will volunteer. The family is cursed, they say. Hana is told this is her chance to start a new life. With Shouta, perhaps - the boy she does not want to marry.

Hana is propelled towards the Dark Woods, but she is savaged by a beast and left for dead. Nursed back to health by Itsuki – the healer with a strange affliction – she explores the enchanted world hidden within the Dark Woods and learns how the attacks began over a century ago.

The story is based on Beauty and the Beast and, with, the live action film due to hit cinemas as I write, there could not be a better time to read Barefoot on the Wind. A strong fairy tale retelling should bring something new to the story. Zoe Marriott achieves this both with her imaginative settings and the depth of psychological exploration within the story. The 1991 Disney Animation is like a bass note to which Marriott adds an intriguing and beautiful tune.

Marriot considers the character of the enchantress. In terms of the Disney animation, this character wins my all-time award for ‘most interesting character never explored’. One tantalizing mention as the film opens, then she is forgotten. The characters live happily ever after, we end with a catchy song which will stick in people’s heads for the next 26 years, and that is supposed to be enough. Marriott clearly thinks otherwise. She asks the questions Disney forgot, starting with ‘why’? What did the Prince do, and why was the enchantress unable to forgive him? Spin me the old yarn about not giving a beggar-woman a bed for the night if you will, but Marriott’s answers are far more interesting …

Both Hana’s storyline, and the story of the Dark Woods, explore the psychological effects of guilt and retribution. The depth of this exploration, and the honesty, are astounding. Marriot considers not just what we do, but what our emotions do to us. This is a story about mental health in the best sense – not a shallow illustration of a medical label, but a portrayal of how thoughts and emotions lie behind behaviours.

I liked the fact that the main relationship in the novel was conveyed in terms of the character’s thoughts and feelings about what sort of role the other person might have in their life. The little romance we saw meant more because it had developed first through feeling.  

Barefoot on the Wind held me enchanted. Well researched, well imagined and well executed.

Question – can you think of a fairytale character whose story has been left unexplored? I would love to hear your suggestions!

- I won my copy of Barefoot on the Wind in a Twitter giveaway. This does not affect the honesty of my review. Many thanks to Walker YA/Walker Books Ltd for their generosity. 

  •  ISBN: 9781406333374
  • Walker Books Ltd
  • Page Count: 313 

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  1. What a fab review! I'm yet to read this one but I adore Zoe so much! X

  2. Thanks Michelle. I can't wait to read some more of her work. Would also love to plot something similar for The Little Mermaid - there are some interesting themes and backstories which could be explored.

    1. Oh wow! Yes The Little Mermaid would be awesome! Thanks for linking this up to the British Books Challenge too x

  3. Thank you for running the challenge. :)

  4. Definitely sounds like my cup of tea!
    Just realised that I mentioned the Cinderella one to you last year, and read her series after finding it in my local library too :)
    Enjoying reading your reviews

  5. I thought it sounded very Christina! :) Lovely to hear from you - can't wait for a Zoe Marriott related talk.