Beauty by Robin McKinley

Project: Fairy Tale hosted by Alison @ The Cheap Reader

projectfairytalebutton2Banner created and designed by Alisa @ Picture Me Reading

Tin @ Rabbitin’s review of Beauty convinced me enough to add the book on my reading list and when Alison @ The Cheap Reader announced Project: Fairy Tale, I took this opportunity to choose Beauty and the Beast and immediately grab a copy of Beauty. Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Beauty coverA 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.

Doesn’t the book cover look amazing? Both the title and the cover illustration project a common theme, giving us an idea of what the story would be all about. I seldom read fairy tale retellings before and I think Beastly was the only retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I had read. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up liking the book. But in this case, Beauty did not disappoint me.

As the title suggests, Beauty is the main character of the story. She’s actually named Honour, but after having a hard time understanding the meaning of her name as a child, she remarks that she’d rather be Beauty and so, since then, the name sticks. What I noticed from their names is that they are all named after virtues, with her sisters being named as Grace and Hope.

In comparison to the original tale, Beauty stayed true to it, but Robin McKinley adds more characters and gives it a little twist. I’m impressed by the way the author describes the settings, especially the part where she portrays the castle and the scene in the countryside where Beauty and her family reside. Readers will get a glimpse of how the castle looks like and also have a chance to be familiarized with the lifestyle of the countryside people and how differently they live from the city. Moreover, one can also see that they recognize the things that cannot be explained by reason – tales that involve magic and enchantments. I, for one, understand that it is not unusual for those to happen as I also hear childhood stories from my dad that unexplainable things happen in his hometown in the province, as well as from my cousins.

Moving on, the complexity in Beauty’s characterization makes the story more enjoyable to read – bringing depth into it. As ordinary and plain as she may describe herself, I still don’t think of Beauty as that. She holds something more beyond it and I admire her for that. And true enough, as she grows older, she definitely proves to become what she is named for. The interest she’s shown towards books and reading adds to my impression of her as someone who values knowledge more than anything. She prefers reading over socializing. It is known for a fact that the inferiority in the role of women is prominent before wherein their work are limited to childbearing, sewing, and other household chores whereas men are considered as the breadwinner of the family. In Beauty’s case, she becomes the opposite of it. Unlike her sisters who are graceful and ladylike, Beauty, on the other hand, is capable of doing jobs intended for men. She tends her own horse, Greatheart, helps Ger in his work, and dreams of studying in a University. With this said, she unknowingly begins to break the norm and somehow makes a change in the order of the society.

I would also like to point out something I observed while reading this book as well as the original tale. If one would try to notice, the Beast isn’t described in detail. No specific appearance is portrayed or described, just something hideous and ugly; thus, I guess this leads to people having different notions about the Beast, giving him different portrayals based on one’s imagination. However, I come to admire the fact that the Beast’s characterization is likable in terms of his personality. I love the way Beauty and Beast’s friendship slowly develops as time passes.

Add to that, I’m glad the book doesn’t just focus on Beauty and Beast’s relationship. All characters take on a significant role in the story and I can’t help but become invested in each one of them. For one, it’s nice to see that Beauty’s sisters are not the kind I’ve read about from the original tale. It’s surprising to see that they are good and love and treat Beauty well. In short, they’re all worth rooting for to a happy ending.

This enchanting story will definitely pull you right into the fantasy world of Beauty and Beast. I’m so immersed in this book as I devour page after page like I am transported in it, eager to be lost in that world. The book is written in a very-detailed descriptive narration to give readers a vivid picture of the story. It’s like Robin McKinley doesn’t want us to miss out on anything, letting us become witnesses of this wonderful story.

Overall, despite the fact that Beauty is similar to Beaumont’s version and stayed true to it, Robin McKinley is able to keep me interested up until the end. Regardless of the simplicity of the storyline, at the end of the day, Beauty will undoubtedly remind us of our childhood dreams where magic exists and where we become princes and princesses ourselves.

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About Rhin

Expression through words. Finding contentment in the simple things in life. Embracing opportunities. Daring to live her dream. View all posts by Rhin

16 responses to “Beauty by Robin McKinley

  • picturemereading

    Yay! I love this book SO much..glad you did as well!

  • Rachael

    Wow what a beautifully written review. I will have to go add this book to my ever expanding reading list.

  • Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books

    Yay I am SO glad you enjoyed Beauty, Rhin! It’s definitely my favorite “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, partially because of how faithful McKinley is to the original tale (and how much she loves it, obviously) and partially because it’s so wonderfully descriptive and magical and just perfect. Beauty’s characterization is definitely wonderful. She’s such a strong female protagonist. And yes, I think in lots of stories the Beast isn’t really described, which is what makes the picture book depictions of him that much more fascinating, because then it’s up to the illustrators to define “beastliness.”

    • Rhin

      Hi, Amanda! I really enjoyed reading this book! This is definitely my favorite retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I guess we have the same reasons as to why we love this book so much. Moreover, it’s, indeed, fun to see how people depict the beast differently.

  • Alison

    Great review, Rhin! You make the book sound great. Guess I really need to pick up the book now. 🙂

  • Alice in Readerland

    Great review! I love that you said Beauty’s character is complex, I love it when there are great well-rounded characters the reader can connect with! 🙂

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

  • Quinn

    I’m glad you liked Beauty. I think it is a wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

    I am sorry to hear you didn’t like Beastly. I quite liked for what it was. I thought it was pretty interesting to tell the story for the Beast point of view. It’s certainly not perfect, but I enjoyed it.

    But I guess that is what is awesome about reading. Books speak to different people for different reasons.

    Can’t wait to see your thoughts on the other retellings you read. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale, and I’ve read quite a few retellings of that fairytale.

    • Rhin

      Hi, Quinn! It was really disappointing that I didn’t like Beastly because I expected it to be good. Perhaps I find the protagonist as a bit immature. I got so used to reading adult books that it is sometimes hard for me to connect to some characters under YA genre. But yeah, books speak differently to other people.

      I can’t wait to read other Beauty and the Beast retellings, too! I just finished Rose Daughter and I still have Belle by Cameron Dokey and two short stories by Angela Carter. I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of my review for the Project: Fairy Tale.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  • Tin (Rabbitin)

    I’m glad you enjoyed this Rhin! It’s among my favorite fairy tale retellings. I agree when you said that it wasn’t the romantic relationship of Beauty with the Beast that took too much of the limelight but there’s also Beauty’s family life and town/community life that were equally interesting. I loved her sisters and that they too have their own stories in the book. Grace and Robbie, Hope and Ger. And I want my own Greatheart. Hee. 😀

    • Rhin

      Hi, Tin! Thanks to you, I was really convinced to read this book. That was primarily the reason why I chose Beauty and the Beast for Project: Fairy Tale. And I didn’t regret it, I’m enjoying it too much!

      I love Greatheart, especially when he’s showing affection towards Beauty. Their bond is so strong and I’m just fascinated to see him showing emotions. I always have a soft spot for animals and I enjoy when authors put us into their minds and feelings.

  • Belle by Cameron Dokey « Perfect Nostalgia

    […] reading Beauty and Rose Daughter (both books written) by Robin McKinley, I moved on to another Beauty and the […]

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