Despite the fact that my sister loves Shea’s books, I still haven’t gotten around to reading them quite yet. *guilty look* However, she is rereading them yet again, so I will be posting her guest reviews as they come along. Mary Rose is my best friend, my sister, and my neighbor, so we hang out together a lot, and ranting and raving about books is kind of a hobby of ours. :-D Here is her review – enjoy!
Fairytale retellings are my favorite, I’ve read a lot over the years and I have yet to come across a series as perfect as K.M. Shea’s. Her books continually stick to the heart of the story, pulling out the key concepts and factors, strengthening the characters, adding backgrounds that make sense, all while respecting the original tale. She also has kept a good balance of each of her stories being enjoyable stand-alone reads while also weaving them into an interlocked storyline.
This is my fourth re-reading of all her currently available fairytales so I figured it was finally time to write a review for each as I finished them:
Beauty and the Beast is a comfortable and classic retelling of the tale, original without being overly fantastical in leaving out the needed aspects. Shea shows a respect for understanding the roots of the story and in so doing crafts an enjoyable retelling.
Severin is cursed (through no particular fault of his own) and can only be saved by falling in love/being fallen in love with. His servants have been cursed along with him but are overwhelmingly loyal. Our heroine, Elle, falls through the roof of his Chateau, breaking her leg, and so has to stay until she is fully healed. This leads to classic fairytale/Hallmark movie story telling in which love slowly unfolds, drama ensues, but in the end everyone is happy and together (as they should be because this is a Fairytale).
There were quite a few things I appreciated about this story, and since Beauty and the Beast is a popular story to retell, I’d liked to explain some, hopefully without any real spoilers:
Severin isn’t cursed through any fault of his own. He is a good person with normal faults and pitfalls, but overall isn’t this terrible “beast on the inside” that deserved to be punished. It makes it much easier, for me at least, to understand why his servants would be loyal enough to be cursed along with him, and why they would care for him so deeply from the start. Also this means he doesn’t magically become a Changed Man when he meets Elle, he is simply still who he is, but improves (as everyone does) as he falls in love with her because that is what love does: improve our true selves.
Elle is sharp, smart, and quick witted. She’s strong, self reliant, and extremely confident. It is a common theme throughout all of Shea’s books (that I’ve read, which is 90% of them) that she gets female characters right: they are characters, just like everyone else. She does not worry about “gender roles” or “making a statement for the feminists” but instead respects that people are people and allows a character to develop organically regardless of their sex. Elle is no exception. She is still feminine, she still has her own insecurities (as is human), she enjoys using her looks to get at the prince on occasion (well done scene), and she never shies from the fact that she is a woman. HOWEVER, neither does any of that detract from who she is either, because she is strong, focused, determined, and not at all thinking of Severin as a prince who will save her, but merely the love of her life. I appreciate Shea’s writing of women, it will be a common theme in any review I do of her books because she writes women as they aught to be written- not as though they’re struggling against The Man, but as they are: Humans, with pitfalls and strengths, weaknesses and abilities, and it’s so refreshing. And in the end I think we see Elle grow due to her love for Severin as well.
Love: Shea has the perfect handle on what love truly is. In all the fairytales she underlines it accurately, but in this, the first book, she really sets the tone for what true love is, “You young maidens now days get misty-eyed thinking about true love and the fathomless adoration you will share. It’s not like that. Real love is looking at someone and knowing you wouldn’t mind waking up to their bad breath for the next century, and you are fine with them seeing you before you brush your hair and fix your face for the day. …. Loving a person isn’t a magical, sparkly passion. It’s hard work. It’s putting the other person before yourself. It’s companionship and being able to trust and depend on each other. That loquacious true love everyone spouts about is really finding a partner who will go through the heartbreaks and joys of life with you.”
In the end this is possibly one of my favorite retellings of Beauty and the Beast, and honestly I give it a 4/5 (only misses being a full five because there’s minor unnecessary drama, like seriously, in real life I feel like there would have been COMMUNICATION, but that’s just me apparently, and honestly it’s not that bad, I just feel like it wasn’t fully accurate to the personalities of the servants at the very least.).
Overall Shea’s fairytales are… simplistic. But in their simplicity they clearly show the depth of each story and its original intent. As a whole the series is definitely a 5/5, please stay tuned for the next review, Wild Swans, a retelling of the Seven Swans. In the mean time- go read Beauty and the Beast by KM Shea!