Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales. I have certainly read any number of good, moderate and terrible iterations. I have also seen quite a few movie versions. And there is yet another live action remake of the classic Disney telling is set to come out in some near-ish future.
Today, however, I want to comment on K.M. Shae’s novel simply entitled Beauty and the Beast. Like so many of my other amazon finds, I made the purchase when it was free – as trashy books hurt less to read when you haven’t actually paid for them. In this instance I was pleasantly surprised. It was a good book. It was a good, logical retelling with well-written characters and only a slightly silly ending.
Lots and lots of spoilers to follow – be warned.
The book starts with Beauty, called Elle of course, falling through the stained glass roof of the Beast’s chateau. She badly breaks her leg, thus explaining her presence in the place. It is not long before the reader discovers Elle was supposed to be there in secret. She was never meant to be seen. All too soon, we learn that the Beast is the bastard son of the current King and military advisor to the Heir. Contrary to many conventions the brothers are supposed to support and even like each other.
The castle is filled with cursed staff, their faces covered in part masks and their voices taken away by magic. While they might not have the flare of some animated versions, their presence is a positive in the telling of the story. They actively drive both Elle and the Beast together.
While it is left a little vague to start with, we know that Elle has a strong dislike for the Beast Prince she is co-habitating with. She thinks him selfishly arrogant and thoughtless when it comes to the lives of others. This perspective is changed over the course of the story that shows a Beastly shaped man who cares very deeply for his staff and his family. He has a protective personality.
Little bits of information, tiny twists in the way the story unfolds guides the reader to assume that Elle, with her worrisome secret, is a spy or assassin from another country there to harm the Beast, his household and his family. Thus the big twist at the end, revealing Elle to be one of two elite Rangers sent by the Heir to protect his brother, is both clever and refreshing. Looking back, I can enjoy the development of the relationship under this new light and it works. Yes there were hints to this end, so it was not truly surprising. But it was enjoyably done.
The weakest point for me is the post-assassination ending. When the arrogant Beast Prince, now turned back to human form by the power of love, turns against Elle for lying to him. It seemed a bit of stretch. It seemed even more frustrating when it is revealed that he effectively forced Ranger 78, Elle, into a longer service because she was effective.
Over all, I thought this was a great retelling of an old, familiar tale. For those fond of fairy tales, I would recommend giving this book a try. I have added more of K.M. Shae’s Timeless Fairy Tales series to my wishlist.