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Beauty    by Robin McKinley order for
by Robin McKinley
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTrophy, 1993 (1978)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Beauty is a retelling of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast. This version's heroine is the youngest of three daughters baptized Grace, Hope and Honour - but she was always called Beauty even when she grew into a thin, mousy, spotty teenager who loved books and dreamed of becoming a scholar.

Her merchant father has a run of bad luck and the family moves to a small house in the country along with Beauty's horse Greatheart. Behind the house is an enchanted forest. It is reputed to have a castle in its centre where lives a monster who used to be a man. Beauty's father leaves on a trip and promises to bring her rose seeds ... but instead he returns with an enchanted rose saying 'Little you know what so simple a thing has cost me.' Then he tells them how he came by it and that the Beast has demanded his daughter in return. Of course, Beauty goes, with the comment 'He cannot be so bad if he loves roses so much.'

The castle is full of little breezes that giggle and scold and conjure up whatever Beauty needs. Magic abounds, such as a library full of books that have not been written yet. In the castle Beauty meets an honourable Beast who seeks companionship and needs a wife ... and in the breezes she hears voices. Then something happens that makes Beauty desperate to visit her family and the Beast does not deny her 'Even if it should cost me my life.' He gives her a rose.

Beauty is a charming, romantic, magical story that teaches that all is not as is appears to be. Its bookish, spirited heroine discounts her own character and looks, but grows into beauty indeed, both on the surface and below it. And, like the original, this tale does end 'happily ever after'.

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