Beauty’s 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?”
McKinley is proving to be a “me” author. I like her prose, I like her stories, and I fly through her books in record time. I got through Beauty in one sitting during Dewey’s Readathon and it made for a wonderful morning. I was surprised to see that this is McKinley’s first novel, released some 25 years before Sunshine, as there’s little “hi i’m an early novel” awkwardness.
The cover says this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but I think it’s a straight up telling. There’s nothing terribly new or exciting but the story kept me interested and engaged throughout. I was hoping that tropes would be pushed a little more than they were, though.
Case in point – early on Beauty ruefully says that for someone with her name she is rather homely looking. Beast thinks her beautiful, though, and when she protests the point he says,
“You will find no mirrors here, for I cannot bear them: nor any quiet water in ponds. And since I am the only one who sees you, why are you not then beautiful?”
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Unconventional heroine! Huzzah! I was cheering until the end, where the castle’s magic gave her conventionally pretty looks and made her seven inches taller. Ah, well.
I would have liked Beauty even more if I were a full on YA person, but even so it was an enjoyable ride.