Beauty, by Robin McKinley

After last week's review of Leife Shallcross's The Beast's Heart, I decided to re-read Robin McKinley's thematically similar 1978 novel Beauty to see how it held up to my fond childhood memories. Like The Beast's Heart, Beauty does its best to transform the Beauty and the Beast fairytale into something romantic, rather than creepy.

The “Beauty” in McKinley's story is really Honour—Beauty is her childhood nickname, despite the fact that she is the plainest member of her family. Apart from that deviation, the story sticks to the typical format (the lost fortune, the rose, and the exchange that leads to Beauty being imprisoned in her father's stead in the isolated splendor of Beast's enchanted castle). The charm of this story lies in its details: the unexpectedly prosaic characters, the spectacular displays of magic, and Beauty's gruff, fiercely matter-of-fact approach to her own confinement.

Beauty has a livelier heroine than The Beast's Heart, but the author is equally prone to equating “the Beast gives Beauty any material good she wants” with an actual relationship. (A rich, conflicted kidnapper is still a kidnapper, guys.) I enjoyed re-reading this as an adult, but it was obvious to me now that McKinley had written it when she was very young, and happy to focus on the fun parts of the story and blithely ignore the rest.
Posted by: Julianka


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