Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

GUEST REVIEW: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Book CoverOne of my favorite comfort re-reads is Robin McKinley’s Beauty. I don’t know if this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast is supposed to be Young Adult or not, (I am 31.)… all I know is that there’s something special about the journey I take with Beauty when I sit down and read Robin McKinley’s version of her story.

I always fall in love with Beauty, her family, and the world they live in — right from the beginning of the story. I love meeting Beauty’s sisters, Hope and Grace. I love hearing Beauty tell how she ended up being nicknamed Beauty, instead of using her given name, Honour… even though she was a bookworm who had not inherited the same tall, willowy beauty that her sisters have. I become one of the family with them, sharing their grief as Grace’s fiancà© is lost to the sea, sharing their despair as their father’s fortune is lost as well, and sharing their determination to be happy in their new poorer life in the far magic-tainted North with Hope’s new husband.

And then the magic roses start to grow along the wall of the house nearest the forest, and their father gets lost in a storm and comes home with a hopeless story and a single perfect rose…

Beauty’s time in the castle with the Beast is an ever-changing exploration of a realm she didn’t know existed, and Robin McKinley’s gentle portrayal of it is exquisitely fascinating. I love how Beauty’s days in the castle with the Beast rarely change… yet the story keeps evolving in a way that draws me ever further into it, so that I am learning, along with Beauty, to allow my heart to trust… to see the colors that flavor that fourth dimension that the castle seems to have… to hear the voices in the Breeze that acts as Beauty’s maid… to listen as those voices chat about the mysterious tragedy of the castle… to learn that the Beast is not what he seems. By the time Beauty understands the mystery, my sight and hearing are clearer along with hers, and I am pleased to read that she finally knows her heart. I am never surprised that as her heart and mind have grown, so has her body and her spirit. How satisfying it is to see that both of her names now fit her so accurately! For she is both Honour, and Beauty now.

This truly is a beautiful story, beautifully told. In fact… I think I’ll go get it from it’s honored place on my bookshelf and lose myself in it again…


  1. Bonnie
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 11:13:05

    Ah. . . Robin McKinley. I love her writing. My ultimate comfort read is The Blue Sword. I’ve read it upwards of 40 times since I first read it in my eighth grade english class and it never gets old. Ms. McKinley is also the only author that I’ve written to gush to her how much her books have affected me. Her books always hold a place of honor on my DIK shelf.

  2. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 11:50:14

    Beauty is one of my favorite, favorite books, and definitely my favorite version of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story. The voice, the story, the settting … sigh … one day I hope I can write something that wonderful, magical, and timeless.

  3. Jane
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 11:56:22

    I just saw the Blue Sword at Fictionwise today. I might have to pick it up. I do remember reading Beauty. McKinley is an author who simply does not write enough books.

  4. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:09:45

    I love McKinley’s work. She wrote a Robin Hood tale that is one of my fave stories.

  5. Janine
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 14:36:45

    Sharon Shinn also loves The Blue Sword. Maybe I should try it. I tried Beauty in high school and found it too slow, but maybe I would appreciate it better now.

  6. Laura Florand
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:17:13

    Me, too, I love this book and Blue Sword. They are both so good. Blue Sword is start-to-finish wonderful.

  7. Charlene Teglia
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 16:48:03

    OK, how did I miss this book? I love McKinley and I love Beauty and the Beast stories. Must hunt down a copy.

  8. LinM
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 18:02:47

    Jane, you are cruel, cruel, cruel. Yes, “Blue Sword” is available for pre-order at Fictionwise but the pricing is absurd. Penguin proves once again that their cost for digitizing a book exceeds every other publisher by a significant margin. The book is currently available in paperback for $6.99 or I can wait until Dec 4 to buy the ebook for $14.00 (admittedly, this co-incides with a new trade edition which also has a $14.00 list price). I was hoping that if I bought the ebook, it would encourage Penguin to digitize other McKinley titles but at these prices, I’m not interested.

  9. LinM
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 18:38:36

    Kathleen, I’m sorry to rant about pricing when your review was so joyous. McKinley is such a great author. “Deerskin” is probably my favourite of her fairytale books. The beginning is horrific and chilling because it is so plausible; the rest of the story showing Deerskin recovering and gradually learning to trust again is tender and quite lovely. Definitely not for young readers.

  10. Kathleen_MacIver
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 18:56:23

    Don’t appologize! It deserves a rant, I think!

    Me… I have a paperback edition from about ten years ago that’s managing to hold up quite nicely!

  11. Ann Bruce
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 19:15:32

    I absolutely adore this book. Thanks for reviewing it. Surprisingly, I don’t have it on my bookshelf, so that must be remedied shortly.

  12. Shannon C.
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 20:33:03

    I loved this book as well. I read it as a child, but at that time it was a bit too hard for me, so I reread it recently. Loved it that time, and also glommed a lot of other McKinley books. Deerskin and The Blue Sword are also terrific.

  13. Shelly @ Bewitched
    Nov 05, 2007 @ 22:52:11

    I haven’t heard of this one. I’ll have to look around here for it. I have a couple of McKinley books in the TBR but this isn’t one of them and neither is the Blue Sword.

  14. Jennifer
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 00:06:27

    Glad to see the review, and reading these comments I have to speak out about McKinley. She’s my only automatic buy author, and I love her work. It’s true that I enjoyed Blue Sword but I could read Hero and the Crown and Sunshine over and over again. Those two combined with Beauty are three of my favorite books of all time. I hope some of you try to read them. She’s simply a fantastic author.

  15. Michele Lee
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 00:18:56

    Thank you so much! I read this some time ago, forgot the author and have been trying to re-discover it ever since! thanks to you I can run and order it from Amazon!

  16. bettie
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 05:10:51

    I love this book. And The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword and Deerskin. I first read The Blue Sword when I was ten years old. For two-thirds of my life, there has been at least one Robin McKinley book on my Keeper Shelf.

  17. Keishon
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 10:07:40

    I got this book. Look forward to reading it someday.

  18. Jan
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 11:22:57

    I have all her books, and love them. You’ve encouraged a re-read session. :) Thanks for the lovely review.

  19. Ann Bruce
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 14:29:51

    BTW, is it only me or did it seem like Disney borrowed a lot from McKinley with their animated movie? The book came out in 1978 and the movie came out in 1991. I just felt like the both had a very similar look and feel.

  20. MaryK
    Nov 06, 2007 @ 16:41:11

    McKinley is an author who simply does not write enough books.

    She just published a new book in October. Dragon-something, Haven maybe. I bought it but haven’t read it yet.

    BTW, is it only me or did it seem like Disney borrowed a lot from McKinley with their animated movie? The book came out in 1978 and the movie came out in 1991. I just felt like the both had a very similar look and feel.

    I don’t think it’s possible to read Beauty and not have your interpretation of the fairytale affected. McKinley’s imagery is very powerful. Any Beauty and the Beast fan who hasn’t read Beauty is deprived.

  21. Sela Carsen
    Nov 13, 2007 @ 10:36:49

    Can’t believe I missed this review. I’m on my third copy of Beauty because I literally wore out the first two. Whenever people ask what my favorite books are, I list this one along with Jane Eyre and To Kill A Mockingbird.

    I don’t think I can even pick a favorite McKinley story because I have never run across one I didn’t automatically adore. It killed me to wait for Sunshine to come out in paperback because I was so eager to read it! And she’s got another one out?!? Guess I know where my book budget will go this month!

  22. Brigid
    Dec 28, 2007 @ 01:03:07

    I absolutely loved this book when I read it, and was really excited to read her other retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Rose Daughter. I was disappointed to find the two books very similar. I guess this is unavoidable to a point, but it was still a bit of a let-down. I haven’t read The Blue Sword, though, so I’ll have to check it out.

  23. Sela Carsen
    Jan 14, 2008 @ 19:05:34

    Brigid, I have to say that I found Beauty and Rose Daughter extremely different! They’re both B&B stories, so that similarity exists, but the tone and style are completely different. Rose Daughter was written almost 20 years after Beauty and it was intriguing for me to see where McKinley had grown as an author. Rose Daughter was a much more mature story. Beauty is a great fairy tale. My very favorite fairy tale version. But Rose Daughter had a lot to offer as well. A slightly darker vision that has its own appeal.

  24. Hannah
    Apr 07, 2008 @ 19:46:46

    What is the name of Hope’s husband, and her children? And what is Grace’s husband and children? Who does Beauty’s pa marry? It is very important you reply to this message ASAP!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE I BEG OF YOU!!!!!! REPLY!!!!!!!!

  25. Kathleen MacIver
    Apr 08, 2008 @ 12:02:39

    I… uh… am a little surprised by your desperation, Hannah! Wouldn’t a polite request have worked?

    Hope marries Gervain, who is known as Ger. They have twins in the book, Mercy is the girl-child’s name, and I think the boy-child’s name was Richard, although I’m not positive. (My book is packed away in a moving box, at the moment.)

    Grace does not have a husband or children. She was engaged to Robby early on in the book, but he was lost at sea, and stays lost until the very end.

    Beauty’s father does not marry anyone, although there are hints of a slight romance going on between him and Melinda (I think her name was) who kept the nearby inn.

  26. Courtney Hook
    Sep 25, 2008 @ 12:50:51

    You said it better than I could ever have. I absolutely love this book, i’ll read it. . .oooh maybe 2 times a month. But sometime I leave the book alone just long enough for me to forget it’s beautiful enchanting story, so that the next time I read it, it’s like I have never read it before.

    I was especially pleased to find out that she was from Bruswick, Me! That’s only a couple of towns away from my home town. Perhaps the enchanting charms of Maine have inspired her to write this book. The author of The Last Unicorn claims that there are a few unicorns left in Maine. ;)

%d bloggers like this: