Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley
For those of us who watched Beauty and the Beast from Disney but grew up on Grimm Fairy Tales, it was hard to reconcile the two stories. (Just as it was hard for me to reconcile the drastic differences between the two version for the Little Mermaid.) When I rediscovered Ms. McKinley, I tore through her retelling of well known fairy tales. This one, is a happy balance between the Disney unrealistic tale and Grimm's dark story.
What I liked about Beauty in this book is how Ms. McKinley created her with more backstory. More specifically that her family life is different than what was shown in either previous versions. Beauty comes from a happy if a bit down on their luck family. She isn't thrown under the bus by her sisters. Instead, she chooses her fate out of love for her entire family, not just her father.
I found the Beast in here to be surprisingly mild. He wasn't beastly at all. I think this cover really hints at what Ms. McKinley wanted to focus on. This book is about Beauty. Not Beauty and the Beast. Which means, it makes sense that Beast comes into the book not at the beginning and not even during the middle. He shows up maybe 2/3 of the way through the book. I didn't measure exactly but it was later than I expected.
This does make the book a bit slow if we are looking for action. Instead this story almost feels like real time telling of how Beauty goes through her journey to become something else. Perhaps a journey of growth. Although honestly, I don't feel as if she grew that much and her self esteem problems didn't feel resolved. Perhaps this book should have really been a duology. The second book could have been named Beast and been from his perspective. Just a thought. However, as I have learned about Ms. McKinley - she is nobody's "bitch" as Neil Gaiman would state in his infamous blog post that I still adore reading to give myself a reality check. She writes what she wants to write and she tends to leave stories that could have more ... ended. (I will try not to rant about her book Sunshine again but it is so difficult not to rant about that unfinished and rich world.)
This fantasy is recommended to young adults who want to see a different and gentler version of Beauty and the Beast.