With the release of Disney's new live-action Beauty and the Beast (which I loved), other retellings of the fairy tale are all the rage. I wasn't aware of Robin McKinley's Beauty until it showed up in Modern Mrs. Darcy's Kindle deals list the other day, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I needed to read it!
(Also. If you're not already subscribed to MMD's deals, do it! She's responsible for 90% of my ebook purchases.) A strange imprisonment... 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?" Robin McKinley's beloved telling illuminates the unusual love story of a most unlikely couple, Beauty and the Beast.
I definitely finished this book with mixed feelings. First, the good: I loved the time Beauty spent with the Beast at his castle. The castle is enchanted, and many aspects bear an uncanny resemblance to Disney's Beauty and the Beast. (This novel was first published in 1978, so McKinley can't be accused of borrowing elements from Disney.) There's something magical about the castle and grounds—in a sweet, whimsical way, not in a straight-out-of-a-horror-movie way—and it just adds to the charm of the book. One of my favorite aspects of the enchanted castle is the library, which contains every book ever written—even those that hadn't yet been written in the time of the story.
Here's what I didn't love: The book is divided into three sections, and Beauty doesn't meet the Beast until Part Three. This is only 37% of the way into the book (thanks for that little guide, Kindle!), but the first two sections, especially Part One, which tells about Beauty's family's life in the city, felt much longer than that. I wish there would have been less background information and more details about Beauty's time with the Beast. I didn't find Beauty's family to be particularly interesting, and I just kept thinking, "Show me the Beast!"
I am glad that I read Beauty, and, as it contains nothing objectionable, it would be perfect for pre-teens and teens who are in love with the Disney adaptations of the fairy tale. Beauty may be imperfect, but it's still enjoyable. 4 stars. Buy the book. (Or read for free on Kindle Unlimited)
Robin McKinley has won various awards and citations for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her other books include Sunshine; the New York Times bestseller Spindle's End; two novel-length retellings of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and Rose Daughter; and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, The Outlaws of Sherwood. She lives with her husband, the English writer Peter Dickinson. Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed this book through Kindle Unlimited and chose to review it. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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