by Donna Jo Napoli
This is Beauty and the Beast retold from the Beast's point of view. In Napoli's story, the Beast was originally a Muslim prince from Persia, who angered a fairy when he failed to make a ritual sacrifice properly. As punishment, he was turned into a lion, one of several recently brought from India so that his father the King could hunt and kill a lion the next day. The prince-turned-lion fled for his life, traveling through the wilds back to the lion's home in India, and then into France where he sought to lift the curse by making a woman fall in love with him. My favorite part of this book was the middle, which describes his efforts to live as a lion, fighting the bestial instincts of his new body, struggling to reconcile what he must do to survive- hunt and kill- with the tenants of his Islamic faith. The first part of the story, seeped in details of Persian culture (and full of unfamiliar words), just wasn't as interesting. And the final part of the book- when the Beast settled in France, built a rose garden, and wooed Beauty- felt too abrupt. I understand that the main focus of the story was how the prince overcame the lion's bestial nature to feel and act like a man again- and that when he had redeemed himself by gaining Beauty's love thus the story was over- but I didn't get any sense of a real relationship being formed between them, and wished there had been more depth about that part of the story. If you like original retellings of fairy tales, you should certainly read Beast, it's very different. Some of the parts about his life as a lion are rather brutal (not just killing, but also mating scenes of the lions are described), so it might not appeal to all readers.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 272 pages, 2000
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