When a man trespasses a little too hard on the kindness of an enchanted castle, its hideous master gives him an ultimatum: return in a month’s time with one of his daughters who is willing to be a prisoner, or become a prisoner himself.
It is the man’s youngest daughter, Beauty, who volunteers.
The castle is mysterious to say the least, filled with invisible servants, talking serving dishes, and rooms that rearrange themselves. And there is always the Beast, who frightens her horse, has a magical library, and at the end of every day asks, “Beauty, will you marry me?”
A McKinley challenge
I became a fan of Robin McKinley after reading Deerskin last year (trigger warning for that review), and she’s got a large body of work I’ve been planning to dive into further.
The tale of Beauty and the Beast has always been frustrating to me. On one hand, an intelligent girl who loves books and wants adventure; on the other hand, creepy enchanted guy and a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome. I’m never quite sure whether or not to like this one.
I think I wanted to start with Beauty to see how McKinley would handle a story that’s always given me fidgets.
Despite some new, cool elements—invisible servants instead of enchanted decor, magical library with books from the future(!!)—there really isn’t much meat to the story. It’s still about a creepy Beast and a girl suffering from psychosis.
There’s also no real conflict, other than Beauty’s internal struggle to decide whether or not she loves Beast. And since I already knew the ending, there wasn’t much incentive for me to keep reading.
This is a YA retelling, though, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected much more than fluff. Deerskin was complex and wrenching and moving; Beauty was just kind of lifeless. McKinley had the opportunity to further develop this old tale and give younger readers a glimpse of amazing literature — I wish she’d done so.
Something tells me I should stick to McKinley’s works for adults.
Anyone else read this? Should I stick with McKinley despite the letdown?