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Twenty years ago, Robin McKinley dazzled readers with the power of her novel Beauty. Now this extraordinarily gifted novelist returns to the story of Beauty and the Beast, with a fresh perspective, ingenuity, and mature insight. With Rose Daughter, she presents her finest and most deeply felt work, a compelling, richly imagined, and haunting exploration of the transformative power of love.
It’s kind of surprising to see that an author would write two retellings of the same fairy tale. In Robin McKinley’s case, she wrote two Beauty and the Beast retellings. It’s quite unimaginable. One would surely doubt how the books could stand out as their own and how diverse the plot would be written. Having read the two books now, I can definitely say that Robin McKinley succeeds in delivering two unique retellings of Beauty and the Beast.
Robin McKinley first wrote Beauty around more or less twenty years before she wrote Rose Daughter. And no, Rose Daughter is not a sequel nor has any connections to Beauty. It is completely a whole new different story she started from scratch. Unbelievable, right? But it’s true and this proves how creative and talented Robin McKinley is.
I must say, Rose Daughter takes on a different light for a Beauty and the Beast retelling. The basic storyline is there, but the author crafts the details of the story out of her own. As the title suggests, aside from our main characters, Beauty and Beast, the rose becomes a crucial part of the book as well. The story centers on it in such a way that readers may take the flower as the key to bind all characters together, weaving yet another beautiful retelling about Beauty and the Beast.
Just like in Beauty, Robin McKinley does not hold back in giving us the story in a very detailed form. I guess this will, in return, help the readers understand the complexity the book offers. Indeed, in comparison to Beauty, Rose Daughter provides a much complicated, darker story than Beauty. Unlike in the other book where magic is used for good, this book shows us how magic can be used for evil as well. Even the Beast’s castle doesn’t project a welcoming feeling to its visitors. While I was reading through the castle’s description, it does look kind of scary and I wouldn’t want to live there in solitude for the rest of my life. It’s only the glasshouse where Beast’s roses are planted that seems to be Beauty’s safe haven.
I find the names of the characters quite peculiar, yet they still do, in fact, suit their personalities. And I’m amazed by how the townspeople become significant in shaping the lives of Beauty and her family. Coming from the city, it is inevitable that people will not be used to a life in country. In Beauty’s family’s case, a lot of effort is made before they begin to appreciate that kind of lifestyle and I’m glad that they embrace it with open arms. They eventually get used to it and become friends with some of the townspeople. It is also through the townspeople that some stories are learnt about magic, sorcerers, and the tale behind the Rose Cottage. As the story progresses, readers will see how tales can change over time by oral tradition as evident in the differences in Mrs. Words-Without-End and Jack Trueword’s versions.
I have to admit, before I began reading this book, I was kind of hoping that Beauty’s sisters would not possess a villainous personality and it was a sigh of relief when they’re not portrayed as that. In fact, I slowly come to admire the sisters’ relationship with one another as they have shown to have a strong bond and sisterly love toward each other. As for Beauty, her passion is portrayed in a form of being a green thumb. She’s not the bookworm Beauty we know from Beauty and her skills for gardening prove that the author incorporates her knowledge of it to the book. Moving on, Beast’s portrayal makes him likable throughout the story. His gentlemanliness, kindness, and sweetness certainly paid off at the end.
For who could ever love a beast? This book vividly defines the deeper meaning behind this worth-pondering question. The twist at the end of the book will definitely surprise the readers that at the end of the day, it will leave them reflecting about the importance in Beauty’s choice which will affect her life in general. Lessons can undoubtedly be learned from this book. For those of you who have read the book, what would you do if you were in Beauty’s shoes? The answer may be easy to some, but I guess the decision will become harder when we are presented with the situation in reality.
To end this post and in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I would like to share one beautiful quote from the book: “Roses are for love. Not silly sweethearts’ love but the love that makes you and keeps you whole, love that gets you through the worst your life’ll give you and that pours out of you when you’re given the best instead…”