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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August Wrap Up

Another month over, another load of books to tell you about~ and this was a really great reading month for me! Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 4 graphic novels, 8 manga volumes, and 2 short stories, and 1 (amazing) picture book – and I even discovered a new favourite! 😀

Booktubeathon started before I managed to finish anything else, so the first eight books I read were all part of the challenge! I’ve already written mini-reviews for each of these, so I won’t say much about them here, but you can see my ratings and ramblings by clicking on the covers below:

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 1 Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & Roses Marcus Sedgwick//Killing the Dead Winston Graham//Ross Poldark
Kate Beaton//Hark! A Vagrant Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince Sarah Dessen//Saint Anything Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang//In Real Life

Emily Carroll//Through the WoodsThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll. A collection of scary short stories, in graphic novel form! First off, the illustrations for this book were amazing, with just the right blend of beauty and creepiness, and I don’t think this book would’ve been half so good without them. In terms of the story, I (thankfully) didn’t find them too scary myself, but I did still really enjoy them, and they were definitely chilling. People who scare easily might want to avoid this book!5 starsNoelle Stevenson//NimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson. A graphic novel that follows the adventures of Lord Ballister Blackheart, supervillain, and his new shape-shifting sidekick, Nimona. I really loved this! The characters were all really interesting, the story was surprisingly deep, and the art style was incredibly cute. I just wish there was more of it! 😦4 starsShigeru Mizuki//Onward Towards Our Noble DeathsOnward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. A semi-autobiographical manga series, which tells the story of a company of Japanese soldiers stationed in Papua New Guinea during the World War II. After miraculously surviving a suicide charge, they’re told that they must perform another, since their deaths have already been reported. I wasn’t initially all that into this book, since there are a lot of characters, and it’s quite difficult to keep track of them all (despite the character list at the beginning of the book). But after I’d identified the most important characters, I found myself really enjoying it. Which is not to say that this is an enjoyable story – it really, really isn’t – but it is powerful, and very well-told. The art is really great as well, and the contrast between the realistic backgrounds and the cartoony character design is incredibly striking.4 starsYun Kouga//Loveless vol. 11Yun Kouga//Loveless vol. 12Loveless Volumes 11-12 by Yun Kouga. A manga series that follows a young amnesiac boy called Ritsuka, who – after coming to school one day to find his brother’s charred corpse at his desk – becomes involved with the mysterious Soubi, and gets dragged into the strange hidden world of Fighters and Sacrifices. It sounds intriguing, right? And much darker than you’d expect, judging by the cutesy artwork! Obviously, a lot has happened since the beginning of the series, but it’s still weird and wonderful, and I’m still loving it. I was a little lost at the beginning of volume 11, since it’s been a while since I last picked up this series (and I’m also pretty sure that I’ve skipped a couple of volumes somewhere along the line, so that will need to be rectified soon), but I managed to get back into it relatively quickly, and overall, it was a really fun read. 🙂4 starsRyuji Gotsuba//Sasameke vol. 1Ryuji Gotsuba//Sasameke vol. 2Sasameke by Ryuji Gotsubo. Another manga series, this time about boy called Rakuichi, a high school football player who’s recently returned home from Italy, having sworn off football for good – only to be dragged kicking and screaming into his new school’s football club. I had high hopes for this series – I read the first (bind up) volume of it several years ago, & I remember loving it – and first volume (which I re-read, as I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything that had happened) started off pretty well. But unfortunately it just got worse and worse as it went on… The characters were all either unremarkable or unlikeable and the storytelling was all over the place. I did like the art style, but it really wasn’t enough to make up for the sheer stupidity of the rest of the book. If you like sports manga, or football, then I’d advise you not waste your time on Sasameke, and just read Whistle! instead. Or Area no Kishi. Or Giant Killing. Or, really, any other number of far superior football manga – there are a lot of them out there.2 starsYumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 2Bunny Drop Volume 2 by Yumi Unita. The continuing adventures of Rin and Daikichi! This time featuring such exciting events as: Getting Rin ready for elementary school! The search for Rin’s mother! And Daikichi starting his new job! 😉 All jokes aside, this series continues to be adorable and charming, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting hold of the next few volumes!5 starsMatsuri Hino//Vampire Knight vol. 11Vampire Knight Volume 11 by Matsuri Hino. This series follows a student called Yuuki Cross, a prefect at the prestigous Cross Academy, whose duty is to keep the peace between the Day Class and the Night Class – who are all secretly vampires! At this point in the series, Yuuki is adjusting to life outside the Academy, and is still torn between her feelings for the pureblood vampire Kaname and the vampire hunter Zero. Vampire Knight is clearly trying very hard to break my heart with all it’s love-triangle drama, and it’s doing a very good job of it! I’m still firmly on Team Kaname, but Yuuki’s struggle over her feelings for Zero are super-painful (in a good way!) to read about!4 starsPatrick Ness//Monsters of MenMonsters of Men by Patrick Ness. The third and final installment in the Chaos Walking trilogy… Now I just have to get my hands on those novellas! Because I really, really want more of this universe. Obviously there’s not much that I can say about the events of this book, because of spoilers, but it was basically the perfect ending for this series. So many feelings! Such drama! And a surprising new protagonist, whose viewpoint was really interesting, too. Highly, highly recommended! 😀5 starsJuan Tomás Ávila Laurel//By Night the Mountain BurnsBy Night the Mountain Burns by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. A story that recalls the narrator’s childhood on a small, impoverished island in Equatorial Guinea, which was apparently based on the author’s own experiences growing up on Annobón Island. The book is written in an almost stream-of-consciousness style, which I found a bit frustrating, as it meant that the narrator never stayed on point for very long – and, in fact, I found it difficult to tell what the focus of this story really was: At several points, it seemed like there was going to be some kind of dramatic revelation about his mysterious grandfather, but it never materialised… That said, I did enjoy this book; the writing was beautiful and the setting was very interesting, as was the narrator’s outlook on the events of the book… If you were at all intrigued by my Teaser Tuesday post for this book, then it’s probably worth giving it a try. 🙂3 starsGeorge R.R. Martin & John J. Miller//Dead Man's HandDead Man’s Hand by George R.R. Martin & John J. Miller. The seventh book in the mosaic Wild Cards series, which I picked up for the Library Scavenger Hunt this month. Consequently, I’ve already written a mini-review for this book, so I won’t say too much about it here – only that I really enjoyed it, & I’m looking forward to reading more of this series! 😀4 starsJames Joyce//The Cats of CopenhagenThe Cats of Copenhagen by James Joyce. A short, playful letter that Joyce sent to his grandson in 1936, about how there are no cats in Copenhagen. I picked this up while I was at Waterstones, & read through the whole thing (it was really short) – and it was incredibly cute! The illustrations (by Casey Sorrow) were great, too, and managed to make me chuckle a few times, but I don’t have much to say about it otherwise…3 starsKate Beaton//The Princess & the PonyThe Princess & the Pony by Kate Beaton. A children’s picture book about an tiny princess who wants a proper warrior’s horse for her birthday. What she gets instead is a roly-poly little pony, with an unfortunate flatulence problem… 😛 I don’t often read books targeted at small children, but this one caught my interest because it’s by the same author/artist as Hark! A Vagrant, so I decided to pick it up anyway – and I’m really glad I did! It’s one of the cutest books I’ve read in years, with a charming story, and beautiful illustrations. Definitely recommended. 🙂5 starsKatie McGarry//Nowhere But HereNowhere But Here by Katie McGarry. The first book in the Thunder Road series, which centres around a motorcycle club: This story follows Oz, a teenage boy who’s grown up around the club and is hoping to join it, and Emily, the biological daughter of the club’s leader, who comes to town unexpectedly when she hears about her grandmother’s funeral. Naturally, what follows involves romance, and way more secrets than are good for any family… I remember when I was reading the first few chapters that my initial thought was how refreshing it was to be reading a Katie McGarry book where the heroine seemed to have a normal, loving, supportive (immediate) family. Then things progressed, and I realised just how mistaken that impression was. But regardless, I really enjoyed this book. Oz and Emily were both great characters to read about (and there were a lot of really great side-characters, too!), and I found Oz’s motorcycle club lifestyle interesting, if not particularly healthy… All in all, it was a great start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to reading more.4 starsJenn Bennett//Night OwlsNight Owls by Jenn Bennett. Called The Anatomical Shape of a Heart in the US, this book follows Bex – a teenager who wants to become a medical illustrator – and Jack – a notorious graffiti artist – who meet on the night bus. The story was both cute and touching, with some surprisingly dark moments; the characters were great, and their relationship was really fun to read about; and as the icing on the cake, the writing was brilliantly witty and engaging. I read this in two sittings, but it would’ve been one if only I’d started reading a little earlier in the day – I found it very difficult to put it down!5+ stars

Booktubeathon: Update 2 & Mini-Review

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & RosesJUST FINISHED: A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

Wow. What to say about this? I’m actually a little bit speechless (not literally, of course). This is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast, a traditional fairytale originally recorded by the French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and (probably most famously) retold by Disney. In Maas’ version, however, “Beauty” is a human called Feyre, who’s become a hunter in order to support her impoverished father and sisters; and the beast, Tamlin (presumably named after the Tam Lin who appears in Scottish folklore), is actually a faerie. When Feyre kills a faerie, thinking that it’s a wolf, she must pay for his life with her own – but instead of killing her, Tamlin takes her away to live with him in the faerie kingdom of Prythian, where nothing is as it seems.

I’ve read quite a few Beauty & the Beast retellings, but this one definitely stands out from the crowd, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, there’s a lot of political intrigue going on in Prythian beyond the curse that Tamlin and his household are (naturally) under, and it was really fascinating. Secondly, most retellings of this fairytale focus solely on the characters of Beauty & the Beast, but there is a whole host of compelling characters in A Court of Thorns & Roses. My particular favourites were probably Lucien and Rhysand, but Feyre was a really great, strong lead, and Tamlin made for an incredibly sweet love interest.

Obviously, I couldn’t help comparing this to Sarah J. Maas’ other books a little bit, and I didn’t like A Court of Thorns & Roses quite as much as I did the Throne of Glass series, but I definitely have high hopes for the rest of the trilogy. Here’s what I’m most hoping for from the sequel: Further exploration of the different faerie courts; more of Nesta and the rest of Feyre’s family; more about Hybern; and hopefully no love triangles!3 stars

CURRENT READATHON STATUS: Debating what to read next.

Books Completed: 2
Pages Read: 612
Challenges Completed: 4

Edit (30/12/2016): Changed rating from 4/5 to 3/5.

BOOKTUBEATHON TIME!

Tomorrow is the start of the 2015 Booktubeathon, which I’m super-excited about, as you can probably tell from the capslock title~ 😛 Last year’s Booktubeathon (before I even started this blog) was my first ever readathon, and I had so much fun that I’ve been looking forward to this one ever since… And it’s finally here!

So, first of all, here are some handy informational links:

The readathon will be going on from 3rd – 9th August, and there’s no official sign-up, so it’s never too late to join in! And all the challenges are non-mandatory, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t complete them, or if there’s one that you just don’t want to do. I really enjoy them, however, so I’ve made a tentative TBR with each of the challenges in mind, which is as follows:

 Morgan Matson//Second Chance Summer1) Read a book with blue on the cover.

The book I’ve chosen for this challenge is Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. I find Morgan Matson’s writing style to be quite quick to read, so hopefully this won’t take me too long.

Marcus Sedgwick//Killing the Dead2) Read a book by an author who shares the first letter of your surname.

An author with an S-W surname would be a task to find, unless I wanted to read something by one of my relatives (which I don’t; they’re all dry, academic volumes on subjects I know next to nothing about). So I’ve decided to stick with “S”, and pick Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick, which is the novella he wrote for World Book Day this year, so it’s very short.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry//The Little Prince3) Read someone else’s favourite book.

I asked my friend Chloë about this challenge, and her favourite book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which works out quite well for me. I’ve already read it a couple of times, but it’s quite short – so it’s a good choice for a readathon – and I’ve been meaning to re-read it for a little while anyway, in preparation for the film… 🙂

Yumi Unita//Bunny Drop vol. 14) Read the last book you acquired.

The last book I got my hands on is Bunny Drop Volume 1 by Yumi Unita, which I bought when I was in London yesterday. I’ve also ordered a few graphic novels from the Book Depository, however (using the Booktubathon discount code!), so if they arrive today, then I’ll be reading one of them instead – probably Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

5) Finish a book without letting go of it.

As I’ve got two very short books on my TBR already, I’ll be combining this challenge with one of the earlier ones, and reading either Killing the Dead or The Little Prince. Whichever is shorter (probably Killing the Dead).

Sarah J. Maas//A Court of Thorns & Roses6) Read a book that you really want to read.

What I choose for this challenge will depend largely on my mood at the time, but at the moment, I’m leaning towards reading A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas, simply because I’ve been dying to read it since I bought it, and other priorities keep getting in the way… 😡

Sarah Dessen//Saint Anything7) Read seven books in total.

Winston Graham//Ross PoldarkSince I’ve only got five books on my TBR so far, I’ll be picking a couple more to finish up this challenge (that is, if my new graphic novels don’t arrive before the end of the week). And my most likely choices are: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, which is another one like A Court of Thorns & Roses, where I just don’t understand why I haven’t read it yet; and Ross Poldark by Winston Graham, a historical romance/social novel that I’ve been wanting to read since I finished watching the TV series~ 😛

I’m planning on writing mini-reviews for each of the books that I read, and I haven’t heard if there are going to be blog/video challenges in addition to the reading challenges this year, but if there are, then I will likely be posting some of them, too. So if all goes well, they you will be hearing from me a lot over the next few days! 😀

Holiday Reads

This week I’m heading off to the Isle of Skye with my parents and my sister (and my friend Chloë this year! 😀 ), which is something we try to do every summer, if we’re all available. Last time I was there (which was two years ago, as this time last year I was still living in China), I somehow managed to marathon basically the whole A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin – which is crazy; I have no idea how I managed it – as well as The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

So since Skye seems to be a good place to read epic fantasy, I thought I’d try to stick with that theme this year as well. The other books I’m taking are all summery contemporaries, since the weather’s been so lovely recently, and it’s really put me in the mood for them… Without further ado, I present my Skye TBR:Skye TBR

1) The Boy who Wept Blood by Den Patrick. I hope to have finished reading The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by the time I leave, so I’ll definitely be packing the sequel…

2) The Ask & the Answer by Patrick Ness. This will be a nice bit of continuity, since I also read The Knife of Never Letting Go in Skye (or, rather, on the way back). 😛

3) A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I’ve been super-excited about this book for a seriously long time, so I’m really looking forward to finally reading it!

4) How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. One of the new contemporaries that I bought in June. I’m hoping to read this while the weather holds out.

5) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I’ve heard that this is on the heavy side for a summer contemporary, but I’m looking forward to reading it anyway. I’ve also had it on my shelf for a while, so it’ll be good to finally get it read.

6) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. Sarah Dessen’s books are usually my first choice when I feel like reading something summery – they’re all so good! 😀 – so I’m really excited about this latest release. Though I’m also a little nervous about it, as I didn’t like her last book (The Moon & More) nearly as much as I liked the ones that came before it…

The other two books that I might take with me are Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton and The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, but I’ll have to wait and see if there’ll be enough room in my suitcase… And of course, I’ll also be bringing my kindle along, just in case these books simply aren’t enough~ 😉

June Haul

June haulSo, I managed not to buy any books at all in May, which was a promising start to my ban – but halfway through June I was given a gift card for one of my local bookshops, and I got a bit carried away… 😳 The good news is, I’ve read quite a few of these already, and I’m absolutely certain that I’ll read a good number of the rest soon, as I’ve decided to take them on holiday with me… The bad news is that I bought more books than I read in June, so my TBR has grown a bit… :/

1) To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix. A collection of short stories, including one from the Old Kingdom series, which I love~ ❤

2) Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer. I found this by chance in the charity shop where I work, in perfect condition, & since it’s the prequel/companion novel to the booksplosion book of the month for June (Off the Page) I decided to pick it up. 🙂

3) Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. Her newest book, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for a while, though I have no idea what it’s about. 😳

4) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett. An illustrated Discworld story about Cohen the Barbarian…

5) Me & Earl & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. A contemporary novel about a boy who’s forced by his parents to befriend a girl who’s been diagnosed with cancer. There’s a film of this coming out soon, which looks incredible, but I really wanted to read the book before seeing it, so I decided to buy this with a gift card that I was given…

6) A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas. The first book in her new series, which is a Beauty & the Beast retelling, but set in a presumably awesome fantasy world, with presumably amazing characters. As you can see, I’m assuming a lot, but I loved the Throne of Glass books so much that I don’t think I’m setting my expectations too high. 😀

7) How to be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle & Sarah Mlynowski. A road-trip novel, though I don’t know all that much else about it… I really love what I’ve read of Lauren Myracle & E. Lockhart’s work so far, though, so I’m looking forward to this (& summer is a great season for contemporaries, so I’ll probably read it soon).

8) Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton. Another fantasy novel, this time about a girl who is training to become a Seeker, but who finds out that the job’s not quite what she thought it would be… I’m really excited for this book, too – I’ve really been in the mood for fantasy lately. 😀

9) The Boy with the Porcelain Blade & The Boy Who Wept Blood by Den Patrick. A fantasy series (companion novels, I think) that’s been pitched as The Lies of Locke Lamora meets Gormenghast… Which sounds brilliant, so of course I had to pick them both up! 😛 I’m about halfway through The Boy with the Porcelain Blade at the moment, and it’s definitely caught my interest!

10) Umbral Book 1: Out of the Shadows & Book 2: The Dark Path by Antony Johnston. A fantasy graphic novel series about an orphaned street thief (& doesn’t that sound familiar!). I’ve already read these, and my feelings were pretty mixed – you can read my thoughts on the series in my June wrap-up. 🙂

11) Princess Ugg Volume 1 by Ted Naifeh. A graphic novel about a Viking-style princess in a fantasy world, who’s sent off to a school for princesses in order to learn about “things like diplomacy”… 😛

12) Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book 2 by Bill Willingham. I’ve been borrowing this series from my local library so far, but I decided to buy this one, since the library’s copy of volume 3 (which covers the same issues as book 2 of the deluxe editions) seems to have gone missing… :/ I actually bought this in May, but since I had to order it from the US in order to get a reasonable price, it didn’t arrive until the beginning of June…