BLURB: “How did a prince, once beloved by his people, become a bitter and reclusive monster? A young, handsome prince lives a life of extravagance before he is forced to pay the ultimate price for his ugly deeds. This is a story of vanity and arrogance, of love and hatred, of beastliness and, of course, beauty.”
REVIEW: I was so excited to begin reading this book; anyone who knows me will tell you that I am completely Disney obsessed and that my life pretty much revolves around Disney movies, music and merchandise – so you can imagine how excited I was to add a Disney book to the list! Valentino’s retelling of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ takes us back in time as the Beast remembers his past life as the Prince, before a curse was cast upon him; through this, we are able to see the heartless, arrogant human being that he had become, and can trace the actions that lead him towards becoming the Beast. It was an interesting retelling, with elements that I had not expected to find in the Beast’s backstory – for example, his close friendship with Gaston, the true villain of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale, while he was a Prince. There was also the addition of the four sisters; in the Disney film, we are told that the Beast was cursed by an old beggar woman after he refused her shelter on a stormy night, upon which event she turned into a beautifuul sorceress, cursed him into becoming the beast, and gave the stipulation that the only way the curse could be broken was if the Beast found true love with someone who could love him in return. In this novel, the Beast is cursed when he spurns a beautiful girl that he is due to marry when he finds out that she is the daughter of a pig farmer; the girl turns out to be one of four powerful sisters, three of whom torment the Beast throughout the time of the curse. Circe, however, the Beasts’ spurned love, grows to feel some sympathy for him, while her cruel sisters are merciless in their attacks on the Beasts, whose despair grows as he remembers his past misdeeds and begins to find himself falling for Belle. The three sisters, reminiscent in my eyes to the witches of ‘Macbeth’, are eventually stopped from continuing the curse by Circe, who brings the Beast back to life after his death at the hands of Gaston, and gives us the true ending that we all know and love from the film; the Beast turns back into a human, as do his beloved servants, and is allowed to marry Belle. I was unsure about some of these elements of the story at first, perhaps because it makes the tale so much darker than the Disney original , but I found myself thoroughly enjoying the story as it added something new to a tale that any other Disney lover, like myself, knows like the back of our hands! I’m really looking forward to reading some more of Valentino’s books (I’ve already bought ‘Fairest of Them All’ and am planning to order ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ as soon as it comes out in the UK) – my only complaint is that I wish they were longer, as I really enjoy Valentino’s writing and think she could easily make the books last for a good hundred more pages without them being boring.