Terri's Reviews > Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty by Robin McKinley
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Dec 07, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, fantasy, young-adult, high-fantasy
Read in December, 2011

McKinley’s version, first published in 1978, is one of many retellings of Beauty and the Beast, but arguably one of the most well-loved. Beauty, the heroine, is not pretty; she’s tall, thin, awkward, and loves to read and learn. Her family loses their fortune, moves to a small town, father is lost in the woods, he finds the Beast’s castle, steals a rose, Beast is angry, and Beauty goes to take his place as the Beast’s prisoner. Nothing new here.

McKinley’s strengths lay in the telling: the prose, the characters, the feeling of other worldliness she weaves into all of her books. The prose evokes a richness that is reflected in the cover’s warm golds and browns. Everything is described in rich detail using just the right perspective and amount of words. This was particularly well-done in Beauty because the heroine is in an enchanted castle, with furnishings and trinkets and everything a magical castle would be expected to have. Beauty describes it all to the reader with the awe of an observer, and even when the character is overwhelmed, McKinley’s phrasing is calm and collected. The castle feels like a place time has forgotten about, as if it wouldn’t exist if ordinary people were to walk by its gates.

McKinley develops the relationship between Beauty and the Beast very slowly. They have dinner together, they take walks, they read. Their bond grows, and Beauty finds that she enjoys the companionship with the Beast. It fills a need that her family couldn’t meet, and she realizes that even if she were allowed to go home, she would miss her Beast. Beauty is clever, and her wit amuses the reader even during the moments of uncertainty.

This review was beyond difficult to do, and I’m pretty sure I did a bad job of it. It’s hard to describe why this book is so amazing, but it is. You’re just going to have to read it and see.

5 stars: the highest rating I can give.
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Quotes Terri Liked

Robin McKinley
“Beauty: "You called me beautiful last night."
Beast: "You do not believe me then?"
Beauty: "Well - no. Any number of mirrors have told me otherwise."
Beast: "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?”
Robin McKinley, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast


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