A Dreadful Beauty ~ Review with Excerpt, Interview and Giveaway

Dreadful Beauty
By L.M. Rapp

Dreadful Beauty is an interesting read. Neria, the daughter of Valtrenore, is undergoing a change. Having somehow contracted the feared Nymphosis disease, Neria is forced to flee her home with her young niece, Anaelle. Anaelle has been gifted with a skill that made it important that she, too, escape the threat that would take her life.  

Neria undertakes a journey that takes her to various parts as she seeks to stay ahead of her father's search. This time provides Neria a unique opportunity as she is no longer one of The-More-Than-Pure's elite and privileged. She is transforming into a Chimera and is now on a journey of discovering who she was, is, and will be.

This is one of those stories that is difficult to accurately describe without revealing too much about the story itself. Neria's family is one of dysfunction, but this is in part because of the rules the society has placed upon it, and the rest is due to her father's utter cruelty.  She is seen as a possession to be bartered, and her father is more than happy to do so. Between this and her rebellious teenage tendencies combined with her unexpected transformation, you are looking at a potential rebellion in the making.

This is a coming-of-age type story set in a fantasy world. In my opinion, this would be appropriate for the older YA reading audience due to some of the situations that are presented. As I stated in my opening, this is an interesting read and one that might need a second reading to fully grasp and appreciate all the layers found within it.

 I was provided a complimentary copy of this book with no expectations but that I provide my honest opinion. All thoughts expressed are my own.                                                     

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A girl undergoing a terrifying transformation goes on an epic quest to find a refuge from her ruthless father.

Nymphosis, a disease that turns humans into Chimeras, is ravaging the land of Gashom. The More-Than-Pure, determined to protect themselves, have seized power and enacted segregationist laws.

The daughter of a high dignitary, young Neria learns she is afflicted by the very disease her father is determined to eradicate. Forced to surrender her privileges, she must flee her home in the capital and traverse the strange wilds to seek refuge with her fellow kind.

Will she have the courage to fight oppression to emancipate the Chimeras from the yoke of the More-Than-Pure?

Author Bio:

L.M. Rapp has lived in different countries and practiced several professions: dentist, web developer, artist, aikido teacher, and farmer. Eager to learn and discover, she uses her experiences
to enrich her stories. She has also written a thriller, Of Flesh and Tears.

One moment, she had been enjoying the security and comfort of
her family home. The next, she was left helpless in a deserted square. An
oil lamp rested in Neria's hand. A clay container, filled with a greenish-
yellow liquid. A wick, coiled within its heart, snaked up to the groove that
guided it into the open air. A flame danced on its tip, a paltry defense
against the darkness of that night, one of those gentle nights that often
follow the heat of the day. The moon watched her with a wry smile.

Neria suddenly felt she was going to collapse, crumpling like a
sheet that had fallen to the ground. Without the warmth of the hand curled
inside hers, she would have indeed done so. She remembered the last
time she had seen Arhel's hand, crimson and reaching out of the covers.
Who knew what the disease would do to her? But before she succumbed
to it, she would save Anaëlle.

She breathed in, then out, and took a step forward. Her aching
limbs strained at first, but after a few minutes, she was walking briskly, her
head bowed like a servant, the child in tow. First, she had to find the secret
passage her mother had told her about and cross the wall of the High
District without going through the ever-guarded gates.

She came to a dead end and saw the dried-up well and a withered
pistachio tree lined with shrubs of rosemary leaning against the perimeter
wall. It concealed a narrow, low opening. She went in first, crawled into a
tunnel bereft of cobwebs, and emerged behind an olive tree, also
surrounded by shrubbery. Crouching down, she peeked between the
branches. No one was there. She called to Anaëlle in a hushed voice, the
child joining her. They emerged from their cover and arrived on the street.
Before long, they had made their way to an impoverished part of town they
had never been to before. The hovels were huddled together, separated
here and there by narrow, randomly arranged passageways. The first on
the left... The second on the right...

“Hey there, little lady! Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

Three guards had concealed themselves in a nook to drink to their
hearts’ content.

“Lady Yarine’s sent me on an urgent errand.”

She hoped they would be too drunk to do anything and turned
away. She tried to maintain her composure, a technique that had worked
for her that morning. Yet heavy footsteps came ever closer behind her
before her arm was seized by a coarse grip.

“You’ve got more than enough time to come give us a little cuddle.”
One of the guards looked at her, a yellow smile spread across his
brown beard. He reeked of alcohol and nauseating filth. She tried to pull
away from him, but his grip tightened.

“Stay still or we'll give you a good hiding. It’ll go better for you if you
don’t put up a fight, believe me. Leave the kid here and come on.”
The two others approached.

The lamp fell and shattered. Neria took out her knife and stuck it in
the arm restraining her. The guard howled in pain and let go of her.
“You’re going to regret that you whore.”

The guards now surrounded her. She threatened them with her
bloodied weapon. She couldn’t believe she’d been so stupid not to have
stabbed him in the stomach. Her assailant barely seemed bothered. She
spun around, Anaëlle clinging to her clothes. The girl was sobbing.
One of the men drew his sword, “Drop the knife or I kill the kid.”
Neria’s hand trembled. The knife fell on the dusty ground with a dull

“Run, Anaëlle, get out of here!” 

The wounded guard threw himself on her, seized her elbow, slipped
behind her, and choked her with his good arm.

The child, small and spirited, ran away. Just as Neria thought she
was going to make it, the man with the sword grabbed her mid-flight.
Neria struggled, hitting the arm that choked her. His hold tightened.
Her mouth gasped but the air would not come, and her movements
weakened. Suddenly, the guard holding her let out a yowl of pain and
released her. She collapsed, heavily panting gulps of air on all fours. Her
assailant lay there with his throat slit. The coarse, black-nailed hand that
moments before had clamped down on her arm now clawed at the earth.
The corpse's glassy eyes stared up into the starry sky. His red tongue in
his gaping mouth, his fleshy lips, his fat cheeks swallowed by his beard...

like a giant sea urchin washed up from the sea, his insides hanging open.
A shrill cry rang out and she covered her ears.

A monster, half-man, half-beast, had ripped open another guard
and had now set its sights on the third. The remaining guard was still
holding Anaëlle hostage and keeping the beast at bay with his sword.

While the tiger and guard danced their macabre dance, Neria, still
on all fours, fumbled for her knife. She grasped its hilt, ran towards the
soldier, raising her weapon, a wild howling in her throat. The monster took
advantage of the diversion to pounce on its adversary. Neria sheathed her
knife, picked up the child who had fallen to the ground, and fled, pursued
by screams of agony.

Author Interview:

How did you do research for your book?
The research took place mostly on the internet. A word I stumble upon
while writing can instantly turn into several hours of reading. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?
None of the characters were easy to write about, but certainly the most
difficult was the tyrannical father. I read three different books about serial
killers before I began to understand the reasoning of a psychopath. 

In your book, you describe the gargoyles’ people. What made you use
elements of Gothic architecture for creating these characters?
During a visit to Notre Dame de Paris, I was able to admire the sculptures
of gargoyles that adorn its facade. Their mere presence evoked a fabulous
universe and served as great inspiration in my novel.

Which authors inspired you to write?
Tolkien, Barbara Pym, Kazuo Ishiguro, Camus, Albert Cohen, Proust,
Baudelaire and many others.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which three books would you
want with you?
I’d take Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Barbara Pym’s Some Tame Gazelle,
and Proust’s In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

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