My favorite Disney movie is probably Beauty and the Beast. Like many bookworms, there’s one major reason for this.
What girl wouldn’t love such an amazing gift?!
Anyway, when I got the opportunity to read Serena Valentino’s The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince on NetGalley, I went in with some fairly high expectations…especially since the book is produced by Disney.
Sadly, the book did not live up to those expectations. Parts of it were very good, but, as a whole, the book felt sloppy at some points, and the ending seemed rushed. I get that we all know how the story ends, but a book like this needs a little more than “The curse was lifted and everyone was happy. The end.” (That’s not a direct quote, but that’s definitely how the ending felt to me.) The book spent so much time relating the Beast’s feelings about everything, but we didn’t really get to see how he dealt with the curse being lifted. I’m assuming there was a bit of an adjustment period, and it would have been nice to see that.
This book gives readers a glimpse into what life was like for the Beast/Prince both before and after the curse was placed on him. Even though The Beast Within relies heavily on the Disney movie for its basis, the book does throw some twists in that will both intrigue and vex readers. A few examples are:
- Gaston was the Prince’s best friend growing up. Both were arrogant jerks, Gaston often resented the Prince’s lofty station, and the curse gradually erased their memories of each other. I actually thought this part was kind of cool. While Gaston remained a jerk–and the Prince did too, to a certain degree–it was neat to see how each man grew into the man/monster we see in the movie.
- The story of the witch who placed the curse on the Prince/Beast was turned on its ear. Apparently, the Prince was engaged to a witch, broke the engagement, and the witch and her crazy older sisters used the curse to get revenge. And these sisters were CRAZY! They took revenge to a whole new level, and, while I appreciate how insane they were and how their actions impacted the Beast, I think this change-up actually detracted from the story I was looking for. It was a little unsettling.
- The curse had a sort of Weeping Angel effect on the castle’s household staff. (If that reference doesn’t make sense, watch the “Blink” episode of Doctor Who.) Gradually, the staff disappeared, but the Beast would often hear voices or see movement in the corner of his eye. When he looked for the source, though, seemingly normal objects would be frozen in place. Belle, however, could interact with the staff in their new forms. Anyone familiar with the movie knows this is a major change…and not a totally welcome one.
I think The Beast Within has the potential to be a wonderful story, telling a beloved tale from perspectives we had maybe not considered before, but I do feel that there are some things that were changed unnecessarily. I also think that the author should veer away from “talking” directly to the audience. When one throws second person point of view into a story that should be totally third person omniscient, the waters get kind of muddy.
I did enjoy the allusions to other Disney tales. At various points, references were made to Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and other classic stories. Readers who enjoy Once Upon a Time and other media that interweave popular tales will appreciate that aspect of this book.
I’m hoping that a few of the things that bugged me will be changed before the book’s release on July 22nd. If they have, I’ll definitely consider purchasing The Beast Within for my school library. If not…well, we’ll just have to see.