Fairytale Features: Beauty & the Beast

fairytale features

The tale of Beauty & the Beast (originally called La Belle et la Bête) is probably familiar to most people: One night, a merchant gets lost in a forest during a terrible storm, and finds shelter in a great palace, where he is offered food and drink and a warm place to sleep. The next morning, on his way out, he picks a flower for his daughter, Beauty – only to be set upon by a terrifying Beast, who accuses the merchant of stealing his most precious possession. The merchant is allowed to leave, but only after promising that he will send his daughter to the palace instead. Over time, Beauty ends up falling in love with the Beast, and through her love, the curse that had transformed him into a monster is broken.

This story was originally written in 1740 by the French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and was influence by many different stories, including Cupid & Psyche (Apuleius; late 2nd century A.D.) and the Italian fairytale The Pig King (Giovanni Francesco Straparola; c. 1550-53), and may also have been partially inspired by the life of Petrus Gonsalvus (1537-1618), a Spanish man who became famous during his lifetime because he suffered from hypertrichosis, which made him abnormally hairy.

A more complete list of adaptations and retellings of this story can be found here, but these are a few of my favourites:

RECOMMENDATIONS

Robin McKinley//BeautyBeauty by Robin McKinley is a straight-up retelling of the original fairytale – by which I mean that the plot deviates very little from Villeneuve’s original story, though naturally both Beauty and the Beast are considerably more fleshed-out as individual characters. McKinley’s writing, however, is beautiful, and I really loved the slow, realistic relationship development in this book.

Christine Pope//Dragon RoseDragon Rose by Christine Pope is another reasonably straight-up retelling, but it’s also mixed with elements of legends such as St. George & the Dragon, where a maiden must be sacrificed every year in order to appease a terrible monster. In Dragon Rose, Rhianne (i.e. Beauty) offers herself up in the place of her friend, and is sent off to become the latest in a long, long line of brides to the cursed Dragon Lord, none of whom have ever been seen again after setting foot in his castle. Pope’s writing is not the best I’ve ever read, but I enjoyed the unpretentious nature of this story, as well as the way it played with the princess-and-the-dragon trope. It’s actually the second book in the Tales of the Latter Kingdoms series (many of which are fairytale retellings), but all the books in this series can be read as standalones.

Andrzej Sapkowski//The Last WishA Grain of Truth by Andrzej Sapkowski is a short story from The Last Wish (which is, in turn, part of the Witcher series), and manages to completely turn the tale of Beauty & the Beast on its head: Women come to the Beast willingly, enjoying their chance to flirt with danger, while their families are given a generous payment – and after a time, they leave. The Beast, for his part, is not particularly interested in breaking the curse that makes him a monster, as he fears that companions will be harder to find if he becomes less of a curiosity. Beautifully written, and fascinatingly re-imagined, this is probably one of my favourite re-tellings of this fairytale.

Rosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge imagines Beauty (this time called Nyx) as a young woman who – promised to the Beast (Ignifex, the kingdom’s evil and immortal ruler) at birth due to a bargain struck by her father – has been raised as an assassin, trained to kill Ignifex, and break the curse he’s held over the kingdom for the last 900 years. This was a fast-paced, exciting retelling, with a dark bent to it that I really enjoyed. Hodge also managed to blend the tale of Beauty & the Beast seamlessly with a whole load of Greek mythology – something that really appealed to the Classicist in me!

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & RosesAnd of course, I couldn’t possibly leave out A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas – the book which pushed me to start writing this post (at long last)! In this book, the Beast (a.k.a. Tamlin) is a High Lord of Prythian, the kingdom of faeries, and “Beauty” (this time called Feyre) is a human huntress, struggling to support her impoverished family after her merchant father lost everything. One day, while hunting, she kills a Fae disguised as a wolf – but although she expects to be killed as punishment, instead she’s taken away to the Spring Court, where the High Lord is labouring under a terrible curse… and running out of time to break it.

There’s a lot going on in this series beyond the retelling that it starts with; in the second book, it breaks away from the fairytale almost entirely. The more epic tone of the story – the intrigue and politics and the looming threat of war – is the main thing that sets this apart from other retellings, and is probably its main selling point, but its also unusual in that it has a considerable cast of (well-developed) characters beyond Feyre and Tamlin, all with significant roles to play. [You can find my spoiler-free reviews of A Court of Thorns & Roses, and A Court of Mist & Fury here.]

[Navigation: INTRODUCTION | BEAUTY & THE BEAST | (More to come)]

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Upcoming Releases: Spring 2015

For your viewing pleasure, a few of the books that I’m most looking forward to reading this spring! This post will cover new releases over the course of March, April and May 2015.

[NB: All dates are taken from Amazon UK unless stated otherwise, and are correct as of 12/02/2015.]

Sally Green//Half WildHalf Wild by Sally Green (26th March)

The sequel to Half Bad, which I read last year and loved. It will, I imagine, follow Nathan as he learns to use his new Gift and (I hope) rescues his friend Gabriel. Things I want to find out in this book: 1) What  Annalise’s game is, 2) What happened to Gabriel, and 3) If there will be a Nathan/Gabriel romance. I’m can’t be the only one shipping Nathan and Gabriel… right?

Melissa Grey//The Girl at MidnightThe Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (28th April)

This is Melissa Grey’s debut novel, and is being pitched as a book for those who liked Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series and Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy (both of which I have enjoyed/am enjoying). I don’t know all that much about it, but I am excited nonetheless – as far as I can tell, it follows a thief called Echo, who sells stolen artefacts on the black market in a fantasy world that’s hidden away from humans.

Rosamund Hodge//Crimson BoundCrimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge (5th May)

Another fairytale-retelling, along the lines of Cruel Beauty, though I don’t believe that they’re set in the same universe. Crimson Bound is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and follows a girl named Rachelle, who fights monsters in service to the King, and her romance (presumably) with his son Armand.

2014 in Review: Some Superficial Favourites

Just to end things on a more positive note than my last post, I thought I’d finish off my “2014 in Review” series by showing you some of the prettiest books that I came across over the course of the year. For the record, I haven’t read all of these (but I certainly hope to!).

Philip Pullman//Four TalesFour Tales by Philip Pullman. This is a bind-up of four fairytale-style stories, & I really love the way this is reflected by the Disney-style castle on the cover. If you look at the details at the bottom, you can see some of the various characters & props from each of the stories: The rat; the scarecrow & his servant; the pair of shoes; &c. The simple two-tone colour scheme is beautiful as well – though the white-looking line art is actually silver – and lends the book the look of a starry night.

David Mitchell//The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. I love the whimsical style of this cover, with all the different objects connected by threads of birds and water and I believe that the spiral in the lower left corner is made up of cards (?). I haven’t read this book yet, so I don’t know what the significance of each item is, but the look of it is certainly striking.

Marcus Sedgwick//MidwinterbloodMidwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. This cover reminds me of the opening scene in the film of Watership Down, though I don’t know how many of you will have seen that. I love the style that the rabbits are drawn in (made up of lots of lines rather than block colour), and the red and purple go well together for the background. The skull-and-thorns motif on the side looks pretty, too, and adds a sinister touch.

Tahereh Mafi//Ignite MeIgnite Me by Tahereh Mafi. This whole trilogy has really beautiful covers, but of the three books (plus novella bind-up), I think Ignite Me is the prettiest. The orange around her eyes and the flowers on her eyelashes really create an impression of spring, making it seem like life must be improving for Juliette (which I very much hope is the case, after the events of the first two books). There’s also the bird reflected in her iris on all three covers, which (as she mentions in the book) represents freedom.

Naomi Novik//Empire of IvoryEmpire of Ivory by Naomi Novik. This is the fourth book in the Temeraire series, which (again) all have really lovely covers, but since this is the only new one I bought this year, this is the one that I will talk about. I believe that this particular book is set in Africa, and at the bottom of the cover you can see a lion and some African elephants, as well as some tribal spears and shields at the sides. The warm colour scheme is nice, too (especially after the cool blues, greens and purples of the previous books), and I really like that the flowers have been done in colour, to contrast the black line art.

Rosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. Generally speaking, I don’t tend to like covers with people on them, unless they’re clearly hand-drawn, but I’ll make an exception for this one, simply because I really, really love the way the rose and the staircase have been blended together. The rose, of course, brings to mind the story of Beauty & the Beast (on which this story was based), while the seemingly never-ending staircase (with Nyx running down it) creates a feeling of entrapment which matches the novel perfectly.

November Wrap-Up

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrinceNovember feels like it went by way too fast… :/ & I didn’t actually do all that much reading in the latter part of the month, because the new Pokémon games came out, and I was first caught up in excitement, then in playing the games (which are awesome, by the way). Nevertheless, I managed to read a grand total of 11 books in November, as well as 3 short stories – and this is them:

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. I had so many feelings about this book that I actually ended up writing a mini-review, which you can read here.5 stars

Cassandra Clare//Clockwork PrincessClockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. Needless to say, I went straight on to the sequel, which answered all my questions (even the ones I hadn’t realised I was wondering about). I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way Jem’s storyline seemed to be wrapping up, but that little niggle was thankfully fixed in the epilogue, and my only other  problem with the book was the Will’s-greatest-hits montage at the end, which I thought was a little cheesy… But that was just a tiny, tiny thing, & easily overlooked. It does make me really, really eager to read The Mortal Instruments book now, but I think I need to take a little break (& maybe read some of the books that I already own) first…5 stars

Morgan Matson//Amy & Roger's Epic DetourAmy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. A sweet, but sad contemporary road trip novel. I really loved both Amy & Roger, as well as most of the many, many people they met on their trip, and I particularly loved that Morgan Matson included loads of photos and reciepts and the playlists that they listened to…4 stars

Tabitha Suzuma//ForbiddenForbidden by Tabitha Suzuma. Excellently written, & very thought-provoking, and though I liked the book a lot, I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the situation it presented… On the one hand, Maya & Lochan’s relationship was kind of squicky, but on the other hand, their relationship never really felt like one between siblings, even before they admitted their feelings, and I kind of wanted to root for them to find an escape together someday… My main problem with the way their relationship was portrayed was actually in the early parts of the book, when Maya was pushing Lochan for a relationship that seemed to scare him more than anything – but then again, somebody had to be the instigator (otherwise there’s no story), and reading about the instigation of an incestuous relationship is always going to seem kind of creepy… For those of you who’ve read the book already (or who don’t mind spoilers), feel free to check out my spoilery discussion post here. I’d love to hear your thoughts!3 stars

Paullina Simons//The Bronze HorsemanThe Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. This book was such an emotional roller-coaster! So much tragedy, and then every time Tatiana & Alexander managed to get together, & things seemed to be going well for them, something would come up to drive them apart… 😦 I absolutely loved this book – the characters were so well-written (even the ones like Dimitri, who I really, really hated), & the drama was incredibly intense. There’s a slight cliffhanger at the end, so I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.5 starsRosamund Hodge//Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A Beauty & the Beast re-telling, though is more complicated than a simple girl-meets-monster-and-redeems-him story, and it also has rather a dark edge to it, which I enjoyed – and a lot of Greek mythology! I liked the story a lot, even though it took me a while to warm up to the main character, Nyx, and I thought that the big reveal about Ignifex & Shade’s connection wasn’t quite as unexpected as it might have been intended to be… I think I may have officially restarted my fairytale retelling obsession now… 😉4 stars

Marissa Meyer//CinderCinder by Marissa Meyer. The first book in the Lunar Chronicles, and a cyberpunk-Cinderella retelling. Really interesting and inventive, and I loved all the characters so much! 😀 The ending was a little abrupt, but that was the only real problem I had with the book, and I hope that the sequels will take care of any lingering dissatisfaction, even though they follow different characters…5 stars Marissa Meyer//ScarletScarlet by Marissa Meyer. I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Cinder (not enough Cinder/Kai 😉 ), but it was definitely a solid follow-up. The plot seems to be escalating dramatically, and the new characters are fun, too – although I don’t feel that I managed to connect with either Scarlet or Wolf as much as I did with Cinder and Kai… I did appreciate, though, that rather than presenting this second book from an entirely new perspective (as I had expected), Marissa Meyer included chapters from Cinder and Kai’s perspectives, too; building on the first book rather than starting over.4 starsThe Little AndroidGlitches and The Queen’s Army by Marissa Meyer. These are three of the novellas set in the Lunar Chronicles universe, and I figured I’d read them before getting started on Cress. They’re all pretty quick reads (naturally), and well-written and developed (especially considering how short they are… All three stories can be read online for free, and if you’d like to do so, then I’ve linked each one to the cover inages below:

Marissa Meyer//The Little AndroidThe Little Android is set not too long before Cinder, and is a Little Mermaid-retelling about an android mechanic who falls in love with one of her human co-workers. Cinder herself appears briefly in the novella (in the role of the witch who turns Mech6.0 into a human), which was one of my favourite moments, and feel of the story is bittersweet.5 stars

Marissa Meyer//GlitchesGlitches is a direct prequel to Cinder, and is about Cinder’s childhood in New Beijing, the beginning of her friendship with Peony and Iko, and how she first discovered her talent as a mechanic. It was really lovely to see Cinder as a little girl, so unsure of everything in her new life, but this one was also pretty sad, and the ending was somewhat abrupt (though not unexpectedly so…).4 stars

Marissa Meyer//The Queen's ArmyLastly, The Queen’s Army follows the childhood of one of the new characters who’s introduced in Scarlet, and I wouldn’t recommend reading it before you’ve read both Cinder and Scarlet (even though it’s kind of a prequel), as it’s super-spoilery. Also for that reason, I can’t tell you all that much about it! I did enjoy the book, but I felt that the narrative was much choppier than the other two novellas, and I didn’t like it quite so much…3 stars

Marissa Meyer//CressCress by Marissa Meyer. I loved this book so much! Definitely my favourite in the series so far – the plot seems to be really taking off (literally!), and I’m seriously excited for Winter, the last book in the series… Character-wise, Cress was adorable and incredibly relatable, and I really loved the relationship development between her and Thorne; I’m definitely getting more attached to Wolf and Scarlet, even though there wasn’t so much of them in this book; Jacin was an unexpected delight to read (and that scene in the Rampion when he and Cinder talk about Winter was probably one of my favourite scenes in the whole book); and Winter! I wasn’t expecting Winter to even show up in this book, but I am so glad that she did, and I can’t wait to learn more about her!5+ starsRae Carson//Fire and ThornsFire and Thorns by Rae Carson. This is the first book in the Fire and Thorns trilogy, and in the US I believe it is called The Girl of Fire and Thorns, so if you’ve heard of that one, then, yes, this is the same book. It was a little slow-going at first, and I didn’t enjoy part 1 all that much: I liked how realistic the main character, Elisa, seemed, but I didn’t much care for any of the other characters, and not much of the book’s main conflict had been revealed – in fact, much of part 1 was focused on Elisa’s insecurities. However, in the second and third parts the book really picked up, and (in addition to watching Elisa grow as a character, which was wonderful), I grew attached to many of the supporting characters, and the world and its conflicts were really fleshed out. 🙂4 starsRae Carson//Crown of EmbersCrown of Embers by Rae Carson. Elisa’s (continued) growth is incredible, and there are so many other characters that I came to love over the course of reading this: Some older ones like Hector and Mara and Belén, and some new ones, like Tristán and Storm (who grew on me like a weed, and won’t let go). I did miss Cosmé, though, and I’m still not a huge fan of Ximena – but her part in this book and the direction her relationship with Elisa takes is certainly interesting. Writing-wise, this was a lot faster-paced than Fire and Thorns, which made it a lot easier to get into, and the mix of political intrigue and adventure made the plot engaging right from the start.5 stars

September Book Haul

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I hadn’t actually realised just how many books I’d bought this month until I piled them all up for this photo… Oops. 😦

And there are even more books that I really, really want coming out in October! But after that, I think I should put myself on a book-buying ban. I’m running out of space on my shelves, anyway… 😦

1) This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. I’ve already read this one, and the only reason I hadn’t bought it already is that I wanted to be sure to get this edition (by Hodder). I ended up buying it second-hand on Amazon, so it’s a little battered, but I find myself not minding overmuch.

2) Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. I still haven’t read that other Markus Sedgwick book that I bought last month! But I spotted this by chance in Waterstones & couldn’t resist the beautiful cover (this haul contains quite a lot of books that I mainly bought for the covers…). This is also the book of his which I’ve heard the most about – it seems to be a reincarnation story, and the description reminded me a little of Cloud Atlas (by David Mitchell), which I haven’t finished reading, but am really enjoying so far.

3) The Jewel by Amy Ewing. I actually don’t know very much about this book, & I only really bought it because I kept seeing it all over the place. From the blurb, it seems like it’s a dystopian, along the lines of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

4) Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor. I bought these two mainly because I thought my urban fantasy collection needed some fleshing out, and I’ve heard really great things about this trilogy – though, I realise now, I don’t really know what it’s about… I believe it has something to do with demons, though, and I really love the UK covers. I was planning on buying the third book (Dreams of Gods & Monsters) as well, but it doesn’t seem to be out in paperback yet.

5) Night World Volume 1 by L.J. Smith. Consisting of the first three stories in the Night World universe: Secret VampireDaughters of Darkness and Spellbinder. I found this by chance in the Oxfam bookshop when I was dropping off some of my old books that I didn’t want anymore, & thought I’d get it, since it was super-cheap and I already own the other two bind-ups of the series.

6) Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen. I ordered this after reading Boxers & Saints, because I was really in the mood for contemporary graphic novels (as opposed to the DC stuff that I usually read when I feel like reading comics). I really loved it, & will talk about why in my next post (September wrap-up!).

7) Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. Another contemporary graphic novel, & they both have the same illustrator! I really love Faith Erin Hicks’ art style, which is why I picked these two over all the other books of this genre that’re out there…

8) Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A Beauty & the Beast retelling! I’ve been on a massive fairytale kick recently, so I ordered this a few days ago, & it arrived amazingly quickly. Apparently in this one, the Beauty-character has been training all her life to kill the Beast, though, so I’m interested to see how it’ll turn out.

9) Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young. I mainly bought this on a whim, since I thought the title sounded cool. It’s non-fiction, so I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get around to reading it, but it promises to be interesting! 🙂

David Mitchell//The Bone Clocks10) The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Who wrote Cloud Atlas, which I mentioned earlier. This one looks to be another multiple-storylines-weaving-together-type book, which I love, but to be honest, I mainly bought it for the cover. The US cover looks cool as well, but this one is a thing of beauty… ➟

11) Chineasy by Shaolan. I’ve had my eye on this since the kickstarter campaign, & I finally decided to order it around the end of last month. It’s not exactly the kind of book that you can read the whole way though (since it’s basically a text book), but it has some lovely illustrations, and even the Chinese version of Peter & the Wolf at the end!

And finally, 12) Batgirl/Robin: Year One! I almost bought Robin: Year One on its own a couple of years ago, but decided to wait when I found out that this was going to be released. The Batgirl: Year One story is the most exciting thing about this bind-up, since it’s been out of print for years, and before this book, it was selling second-hand for ridiculous amounts (even the individual issues in the series were expensive!). I’m so excited to finally have them both! 😀