Thursday, March 13, 2008

Beauty by Robin McKinley

Category: Fiction - fantasy
Series: No

Beauty has never liked her nickname. She is thin and awkward; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage.

When her father comes home with the tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father protests that he will not let her go, but she answers, “Cannot a Beast be tamed?”

This is a retelling of the story of Beauty & The Beast. Some readers were of the opinion that the Disney version was a direct duplicate of this story. I disagree. There are many elements in this story which are not present in the Disney version, as well as the different characterization of both Beauty and Beast.

I found this book in the Young Adult section of the bookstore, but it transcends the age categorization, I think.

This story is narrated by Beauty in the first person point-of-view. This didn’t bother me in the slightest because the writing is fantastic – succinct, evocative, with a tinge of humour – without sacrificing the fairy tale tone and feel.

Since I believed my father could do anything – except of course make me pretty – I worked and studied with passionate dedication, lived in hope, and avoided society and mirrors.


I forgave him to make him stop apologizing; but I also began to avoid him, and when I did come to the shop when he was there, or when he ate the noon meal with us, he followed me with his eyes as if I wore a black hood and carried an axe, and he was next in line.


I recalled unhappily the tales of the insatiable monster that lived in the forest and ate all the game. Perhaps the Beast found young maiden a difficult dish to procure, and had to resort to trickery. I had cut and carried too much wood in the last two and a half years to make a very delicate morsel; but this was no comfort, since it would undoubtedly be discovered too late.

Beauty is the third and youngest daughter of a prosperous ship merchant. Her two older sisters seem to monopolize all the beauty and grace of the family, leaving Beauty plain and gawky. But Beauty is intelligent, courageous and honourable, and her indulgent father loves all three of them equally.

The story is divided into three parts. The first and second parts recount Beauty’s background, her comfortable and tranquil life in the city, her relationship with her beloved father and sisters, how her father’s fortunes collapse overnight and they find themselves on the brink of destitution. They then travel far up north to a remote village to start a new life.

The Beast makes his appearance in part three. He is portrayed as a gentle, thoughtful and tragic figure. His courting of Beauty is tender and heartfelt. They are good together.

I pondered long and hard if this story could be categorized as a romance. Not exactly. It reads more like Beauty’s life story, culminating in her HEA with the Beast.

If you’re a Beauty and The Beast fan like me, you’ve got to read this.

4.5 out of 5. I really like it. It's fantastic, a keeper. Sensuality rating: Kisses


Kristie (J) said...

Hmmmm - I've always loved Beauty and the Beast romance books. I should look into this one.

Jace said...

Kristie, the writing is actually very good so it's worth reading for that alone. :) The romance aspect is nicely done too, but is not the main focus. It's a delightful twist to the Beauty And The Beast story.

Mary M. said...

Lol. I had to laugh when I spied the link to this review in the side bar, because I borrowed this book from the library not three days ago. I've been hearing praise and more praise about it for months so I decided it was time to give it a try. It was in the children's section. I can't wait to read it, but I have 5 more books lines up before this one. I need 36-hours days.

Jace said...

Mary, do come and share your thoughts when you've finished this book! I'd love to know what you think.

I love McKinley's writing. I went out and bought Spindle's End right after I finished this book ... got to read it soon!

The thing is ... her books are categorized as Young Adult/Children, but I think they are much more than that. I'm not a YA (and certainly not a child LOL) and her writing just captivates me. The categorization is perhaps due to the nature of her stories - fairytales.