In the new fantasy novel, Dreadful Beauty, by LM Rapp, the More-Than-Pure people live separately from the supernatural Chimera, except for a few Chimera who are servants for the More-Than-Pure. These Chimera have their wings chopped off and they don’t speak about any of their abilities or how they came to be trapped by the More-Than-Pure. They definitely don’t mention anything about Chimera society.
Neria’s father is one of the leaders of the More-than=Pure, which means plenty of wealth and advantages for Neria and her siblings. It also means she’ll be handed over as a second wife to another powerful More-Than-Pure, to increase family ties and political connections, as well as having more babies. Sometimes, though, a More-Than-Pure child has a terrible transformation, revealing that they’re actually a Chimera. This means death or exile for the growing Chimera. This transformation is described as a terrible disease, but is it really? As Neria’s appearance changes and her little niece de ella also begins showing strange abilities, her mother de ella sends her out of the city, using secret contacts in the Chimera world. It’s an intriguing opening, almost like her mother de ella ‘s always been ready for this …
In DreadfulBeauty, Neria’s transformation is upsetting, as her features shift, she develops scales, her limbs get puffy, and her whole appearance is unsettling. This is no gentle, subtle change. Slowly, though, she discovers that her new life has special abilities too. In one charming scene, she learns to fly with the Gargoyle children.
In addition to the physical changes, Neria is shifting from a privileged position in society, to having to work and do chores. Back home, she knew was was expected of her from her, even if she did n’t always follow the rules, but among the Chimera, she does n’t really understand anything about the new world she’s found herself in. She learns about herself and who she truly is, in a story that feels like a coming-of-age, even though the setting is clearly fantasy.
The worldbuilding is strong, with believable facts and personalities existing in a fantasy space. The Gargoyle home, for example, is well-suited for residents who can see in the dark and who can fly, and requires some accommodations for human visitors.
Neria’s personal discoveries about her family’s past and her father’s role in oppressing the Chimera begin to intersect with the inevitable conflict between More-Than-Pure and Chimera. Her own survival of her and the lives of those she loves – both human and Chimera – hang in the balance.