Length: 247 pages
Source: Local library
Challenge: Once Upon a Time IV
Robin McKinley's Website
Personal Enjoyment Factor:4/5
It's a familiar tale for many. A lovely girl accepts a punishment meant for her father, and makes her way to an enchanted castle inhabited by a hideous beast. Waited on by invisible servants and invited to dine with the beast nightly, she gradually overcomes her fears and a deep friendship blossoms. When she becomes homesick, the beast allows her to return home for a week, but warns her that if she doesn't come back, he will die. When his death becomes a very real possibility, her true feelings surface as she desperately tries to save him.
There have been many variations of Beauty and the Beast through the years, and although this seems to be a fairly faithful retelling, the details McKinley adds to embellish the tale so beautifully enrich the story and give it a satisfying depth. I especially loved that our heroine grows into her beauty. She is introduced as a hard-working, practical girl who sees herself as anything but beautiful, and her name seems something of a joke. She's a bookworm with a love of the classics and a dream of furthering her education in ways unthinkable for a young woman of the time. Her character is written in such a way that she is selfless without being overly submissive. Her beauty comes to her gradually without her even realizing it. I like the way that love changes not only the beast, but Beauty as well.
One would assume a fairy tale retelling would be "enchanting." While Beauty had its share of magical moments, what struck me most was how "real" it felt. Almost down-to-earth, despite the miracle-grow roses and generous gifts appearing out of nowhere and the like. I'm not sure how exactly to describe it, but I felt it was a perfect mood to create for this particular love story.