Friday, September 11, 2015

Review - Beauty by Robin McKinley

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Series: Standalone
Genre - Historical Fiction/Fairytale Retelling
Published - Harper Collins (1978)
Ebook - 328 pgs
Source - Library Book
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I was the youngest of three daughters. Our literal-minded mother named us Grace, Hope, and Honour. . . . My father still likes to tell the story of how I acquired my odd nickname: I had come to him for further information when I first discovered that our names meant something besides you-come-here. He succeeded in explaining grace and hope, but he had some difficulty trying to make the concept of honour understandable to a five-year-old. . . . I said: ‘Huh! I’d rather be Beauty.

The sisters’ wealthy father loses all his money when his merchant fleet is drowned in a storm, and the family moves to a village far away. Then the old merchant hears what proves to be a false report that one of his ships had made it safe to harbor at last, and on his sad, disappointed way home again he becomes lost deep in the forest and has a terrifying encounter with a fierce Beast, who walks like a man and lives in a castle. The merchant’s life is forfeit, says the Beast, for trespass and the theft of a rose—but he will spare the old man’s life if he sends one of his daughters: “Your daughter would take no harm from me, nor from anything that lives in my lands.” When Beauty hears this story—for her father had picked the rose to bring to her—her sense of honor demands that she take up the Beast’s offer, for “cannot a Beast be tamed?”

Since reading Cruel Beauty earlier this year, I have been on a Beauty and the Beast retelling kick. The stories are familiar and a bit predictable, but I enjoy seeing the twists each author puts on the original tale and what they use from the original story. The only other book I read by Robin McKinley really disappointed me. I wasn’t actively avoiding her works and I wanted to read something else by her. Finally, while searching Overdrive for something to read, I stumbled across this which is one of her most popular stories.

Beauty was a very straight forward retelling with minor deviations from the original story, but McKinley added an enchanting backstory and details to  her version. The basic tale, Beauty offers to live with a Beast to spare her father’s life, is woven in with magic and a story of sisters I really enjoyed and couldn't put down. I was enchanted by the world she created and the story she told.
While I enjoyed the story and the characters, the writing is a bit wordy and description heavy for me. It slowed me down when I wanted the story to keep moving at critical moments. However, I did have a very clear picture of the world and setting McKinley was describing so there were good and bad things about the style.

The little bits of magic and extraordinary magic in this story were another part of what sucked me into this story. The characters and storyline are charming. Beauty's voice was well-developed. She and her interests were well defined, and I enjoyed her as a main character. I was invested in all the characters, especially her horse, and was very sad to leave them when Beauty went to live with the Beast. The story is built well so it doesn't rely to heavily on the original tale but has familiar elements.

My only real complaint about this story is the ending. The whole book was fabulous up until the end. The last few pages felt very rushed and thrown together. It frustrated me a lot to end the book on that note. I wanted more explanation and resolution to the story! The pieces fit together, but it wasn’t very satisfying to me.

Quick Thoughts: This was one of the best Beauty and the Beast retellings I've read. The story has many familiar elements, but McKinley builds a charming, independent world. Her version of this classic tale had me engrossed and I can only wish it went on a little longer.

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