Beauty should be considered one of the classics of fantasy fiction and a must-read for anyone who has ever been enchanted by fairy tales. Robin McKinley shows her mastery of story-telling as she weaves the tale of Beauty and the Beast with such charm that her readers feel positively wooed into loving it. At least this is how I felt when I was a teenage girl first discovering this book. I have read it many times since those days, and love it still the same.
The story is simple and the writing is not overly complex, but for this particular novel the style works well. The first one hundred pages are a window into the life of Beauty. We see Beauty’s small life through her own eyes. We see her family fall upon hard times. We see her act as the heart of their group as they struggle to make a new life for themselves in a new town – leaving behind everything they have ever known. From the beginning, Beauty seems just a little too extraordinary of a girl to fit into her simple life. This introductory section of the book lasts for a long time (one hundred pages to be exact), and as much as I loved the character I was getting to know, I finally felt as bored with her existence as Beauty did, and was ready for something magical to happen.
The second half of the book is an array of enchantment, showing Beauty falling in love with the world of the Beast. McKinley offers lovely descriptions of invisible servants, whose voices are no more than whispers in the winds, and a beautiful castle shrouded in shadow. Her Beast is as equally frightening and hard as he is good-natured and rather adorable in his own way. My heart began to ache for him as he repeated his simple question to Beauty night after night, “Will you marry me, Beauty?” And night after night, she said no, though the surety behind her answer slowly slipped away.
I recommend this book for romantics. It is not the crazy kind of love offered by P.C Cast, and it is not the dramatic kind of love offered by Stephanie Meyer. It is just simply the love of two people who got to know each other past what the eye can see. I love the way Robin McKinley wrote in her younger days as an author. She generally tends towards being overly detailed, but in her earlier works, such as Beauty, she hasn’t mastered giving detail yet in the way that she does in her later books – where we know everything that the world around is capable of to the point of exhaustion. But instead she offers detail with enough mystery worked in for the mind to wonder and yet still create a captivating environment.
Review by Jackie K