Review: The Beast by Jaden Wilkes

The Beast Cover

4.5 whirlwind Stars

A lot of books are slow burns. They spend a lot of page time working up to the main conflict or event that happens in the story, allowing the reader to get to know the characters, see them respond in a number of different circumstances and build the suspense. It’s a good formula. But occasionally, I’ll find an author who takes all semblance of a working formula and not only throws it out the window, but lights that sucker up like a Molotov cocktail and pitches it at the nearest cop car.

The Beast is exactly that kind of explosive glory. It moves so fast and so hard from the very beginning that you spend the entire book speed reading, just trying to catch up. Trying to wrap your head around these gorgeous and broken characters and how they come together in such an inexplicably perfect way.

Dimitri is The Beast. We learn that almost immediately. A former enforcer for the Russian mob (the Bratva) he is a larger than life character. The kind of man that both beguiles and terrifies simultaneously. The kind of man who grins wickedly at the thought of how much blood he has spilled and then delicately spoons caviar onto a water cracker. He is a walking, talking nightmare of a man to all but the darkest corners of society. And even those have rejected him.

Columbia is a broken girl. She’s sacrificed her life and happiness for her younger sister, to keep her safe from the monster that haunts both of their lives. She has taken the brunt of his abuse and anger for the majority of her life and done so willingly to keep Eden safe. But the cost has been substantial; wrung her dry of confidence, motivation and her core center of emotion. To cope she has started evicting the pain from her system in an incredibly destructive, and lasting, way.

There were so many directions this book could have gone once Dimitri and Columbia join each other on the same page. It could have been a more typical story of abduction laced through with a generous helping of Stockholm Syndrome, spoon-fed to the reader in just the perfect way to make us accept it. Or it could have been a straight tale of two broken people finishing each other off. What happens, however, is nothing I could have ever seen coming.

What happens is a lightning storm. One of those once in a lifetime things that epic tales are written about. Despite all of the gore and the pain and the violence, this book is a fairy tale in the truest sense of the word. It’s a story so huge, so grand, that it could probably never really happen. But, fuck, we all want it to. It’s the kind of story that if it could actually happen, would infuse so much hope back into the human condition. And not only that, but would shift perspectives on what love could look like, how it could feed us, nurture us, truly light us up the way it’s supposed to.

Jaden Wilkes has crafted an incredible book.  There is very little arc to this story, it is pedal all the way down, from the very beginning to the very last page. You don’t open this book and merely begin to read. You strap yourself in, put on a helmet, say your last goodbyes, do a couple shots of vodka and hope you survive. This book is exquisitely written – beautifully composed as well as told. The very words that Wilkes chooses serve to bring the reader that much farther into this world; serve to infatuate us with both Dimitri and Columbia to the point where I was gasping my way through their story.

I could probably wax poetic about this book for pages. I was so immediately in its thrall, and happily so, that I made myself slow down reading so it would last longer. It didn’t help. I still devoured it.

I’ve spent a lot of time applauding authors who are willing to push the envelope, dissect human nature on a level most would otherwise shy away from. If I could, I would arrange a standing ovation for Wilkes every time she left her house. She so thoroughly took the idea of a love story, infused it with archetypical elements of a perfect fairytale and then loaded the whole thing into a bazooka and shot it at the moon, I find myself wanting to follow her anywhere.

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