Dark YA Beauty and the Beast retelling steeped in gothic ambiance highlights secrets and bond between sisters

Calgary, Canada – Dark magic, fairy tale beasts, and deeply rooted secrets meet in this gothic fantasy from debut author, Cyla Panin. Stalking Shadows (Amulet/Abrams, Sept. 14, 2021) is a haunting gothic retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” exploring sibling loyalty as a young woman discovers the truth behind her sister’s curse.

In a small 18th century provincial French town, Marie mixes perfumes to sell on market day. While trying to save up enough dowry for her sister, Ama, Marie also hopes for a level of freedom afforded only to spinster aunts. However, Marie isn’t only concocting perfumes to sell — she’s also brewing them to mark her sister’s victims. Because the one thing Marie hasn’t told anyone is that Ama changes into a beast every month and needs to kill to eat. To keep suspicion at bay, Marie marks vagrants and criminals for Ama to attack.

When a child is killed for the first time, Marie worries she’s lost control of her sister. In an attempt to find the truth, she disguises herself as a maid, infiltrating the home where Ama was first cursed; the home of Lord Sebastian LaClaire. However, things are not as they seem as Marie discovers more than the source of Ama’s curse—Marie uncovers dark secrets shrouding Lord Sebastian and herself.

With the cursed sibling bonds of “House of Salt and Sorrows” and morally grey characters of “Sing Me Forgotten,” Stalking Shadows is a gritty feminist retelling that dives into what it truly means to be a beast.

“A fairy-tale retelling that’s both beautiful and brutal.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Stalking Shadows”
Cyla Panin | Sept. 14, 2021 | Amulet/Abrams
YA Fantasy
Hardcover | 978-1-4197-5265-0 | $18.99
Ebook | B08WJTYJX1 | $9.99

More about Cyla Panin

Cyla Panin is a YA and adult author who prefers to look at the world through a dusting of magic. After spending most of her childhood wanting to escape into the wonderful worlds her favorite authors created, she’s now using her own words to craft magical places. When not writing, Cyla can be found playing dinosaurs with her two young boys, watching swashbuckling and/or period TV shows with her husband, and, of course, reading. Find out more at http://www.cylapanin.com/.

Follow Cyla on social media:
Twitter: @cylapanin | Instagram: @cylapanin

Praise for “Stalking Shadows”

“Panin’s debut features rich, complex teen characters, all fighting to be understood within the limits of their small, closed-minded town.”
— Kirkus Review

“Dark and mesmerizing, Stalking Shadows is a story with both heart and bite. An atmospheric tale, it features carefully crafted characters, a deadly secret, and a mysterious magic that kept me enraptured from page one.”
—Jessica S. Olson,
author of Sing Me Forgotten

“A thrilling twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, which redefines what makes someone monstrous… and what makes someone strong. Readers will adore the gorgeously spooky atmosphere in this story of sisters learning how far they will go to keep each other safe in a world of cursed beasts and fierce magic”
— Sam Taylor,
author of We Are the Fire

“STALKING SHADOWS has everything I love in a story: a fierce heroine, a gorgeously spooky atmosphere, and a perfectly Gothic aesthetic. With perfume magic, snowy forests, a brooding lord, and a girl who becomes a beast, this is a retelling the way retellings should be done – fresh and vivid, comparable to Angela Carter’s work.”
– Lyndall Clipstone,
author of Lakesedge

“STALKING SHADOWS is a wonderfully gothic spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy-tale, where lush and atmospheric prose brings to life a haunting story that begs the reader to question what one would—and wouldn’t—do for family.”
— Ashley Shuttleworth,
author of A Dark and Hollow Star

In an interview, Cyla can discuss:

  • The Beast of Gevaudan as inspiration for the novel
  • Focusing on sister/sibling relationships
  • Creating morally gray characters
  • Researching and developing a historical fantasy
  • Incorporating mental health themes like Generalized Anxiety Disorder

An Interview with Cyla Panin

Your story is based on the Beast of Gevaudan and the brave woman who fought it. Why did you decide to explore this story?

The Beast of Gévaudan preyed on children and women because they were the ones who tended to watch over sheep and would be out there alone and unarmed. A young woman named Marie-Jeanne Valet was the first to fight the beast off and survive. When I was reading about this, I started thinking about how exposed and vulnerable these women and children were while the beast stalked the valley and I wanted to flip the narrative. What if Marie held the power? What if her sister was the beast?

Marie and Ama are quite close in the story. Do you also happen to have a close sibling relationship?

I have two brothers. One is less than two years younger than me and one is nine years younger than me, so I had different relationships with both. With my eldest brother, we were close growing up and shared friends when we were kids. I took care of my younger brother a lot because we had a single mom and so that relationship was different but we were also very close. As adults, we’re still very much involved in each others’ lives. I think there can be a really strong tie forged from shared trauma, and there’s some of that between all of us as well.

What was your research like for this book?

The idea sparked when I fell down a Wikipedia hole about the Beast of Gévaudan. From there, I read as many articles as I could and I started wondering whether or not this historical mystery had any influence on the Beauty and the Beast, but it was first published in 1740 — before the incidents—and its origins are much older than that. Since this book is set in 18th century France, I also did research on village life, peasant housing, food available in the region, and everyday living — like how did they light fires?

What were some challenges you ran into while writing your debut novel?

Time was and has always been a challenge with two young kids around! I often wrote during naptime or before they got up in the morning. This was the second book I’d ever written, so I had lots of reading to do about plotting and beat sheets and worldbuilding to do to try and make sure I was moving forward in my craft from my first book.

Why was it important to you to explore anxiety in your book?

I wanted Marie to have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) but I didn’t want the story to be about that — because I have generalized anxiety disorder, and though it heavily impacts my life, my story isn’t about it either. It’s a subtle representation, and I can’t say that it will resonate for all readers with GAD because everyone’s experience with it is different but I hope some readers will see themselves reflected in Marie. She has a lot of physical manifestations of anxiety that I think will be recognizable to some readers.