My latest Goodreads review delves back into the world of Beauty and the Beast, for a truly unique take on the Disney story.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Since seeing the live action version of Beauty and the Beast piqued my interest in a huge way last year, reviving my love of the animated film (one of my all-time favorites), but also getting me interested in reading anything Beauty and the Beast-related I could get my hands on. Last year, I read the live-action novelization, as well as the original story-within-the-story Lost in a Book, but I spotted The Beast Within and knew this would be something I’d enjoy.
The story begins at the point where Belle has sacrificed her freedom for that of her father’s, and is seen from the Beast/Prince’s point of view. We know he is more than just a beast, but unfortunately, his selfish actions have cursed him towards the punishment he has received.
The novel backtracks to a time earlier in the Beast’s life, when he was a handsome prince. He was engaged to be married to the beautiful Circe, a best friend to Gaston (seriously?!), and a man with everything he could ever want. But the revelation that his beloved Circe is actually the daughter of poor pig farmers results in him spurning her love, the introduction of her three witchy sisters (Ruby, Martha, and Lucinda), and the curse placed upon him. A curse that is gradual and degenerative in its “enchantment,” Prince is given an enchanted rose. And of course, you know the story from there.
The Beast Within is told from the perspective of a third person observer, and in turn, his thoughts, worries, fears, and descent into the madness of living in his current state. We know the circumstances, and while we can’t entirely feel sorry for him, we also know he has some humanity within him that he is desperately clinging to, despite the odds stacked against him. His awareness that fate may have dealt him a card in his favor is obvious, but knowing how to approach Belle without frightening her, or worse, her rejecting him, that’s another story altogether.
Now, from what I have seen with both movies, and in the novelizations I read both in third grade and last year, the transformation of the Prince and his servants was immediate, not gradual. In a way, his gradual transformation actually made for a more interesting story.
Ms. Valentino’s detailing of a handsome, selfish Prince confined to the consequence for his beastly behavior is excellent. And the Gaston friendship really got me. That was never mentioned in the movies, but there was that detail about the enchantment rendering people outside the castle to forget the Prince and his servants from the live action movie (it pays to listen to the opening narration!!!).
I loved this book. It’s an easy read. If you like Beauty and the Beast, or Disney in general, I would highly recommend this truly interesting slice of the story. I found out there are several other “Villains” books, and I’m contemplating giving them a read.