Beauty and the Beast
By Jenni James
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Number of Pages: 260
Date Started: January 5, 2016
Date Finished: January 6, 2016
Just when he is about to abdicate the throne to his cousin, he meets Cecelia Hammerstein-Smythe, while a wolf, and begins to hope for the first time in months. Can he balance both worlds as a human and beast, gaining the love and trust of a girl who has every reason to despise him?
Cecelia detests the prince. She only knows Alexander as the arrogant monarch the tyrant who has made her life miserable though perhaps he’s changed right before her eyes. He’s not as full of himself as he once was. The prince is gentle now… but then again, so is the beast.
Beauty and the Beast is perhaps my favourite fairy tale of all time, and more than less likely that has been influenced by my love of the Disney animated film. This book and the animated film share several similarities, but more in imagery than actual content. Disney’s enchantress is James’ witch, and the enchanted rose the enchantress offered is instead Cecelia’s mother’s rose garden. That is where the similarities end. Though the story is written much like the style of Disney tales, that style is not conducive to a full novel.
James does create an almost believable plot line, but unfortunately, her characters fall completely flat. Cecelia is a Mary Sue whereas Alexander is a stock character– whatever growth he has is not actually shown. While the characters lack depth, there also lacks action. Almost everything is moved entirely along by the dialogue, of which there is an overabundance. The reader will learn more about the various garments Cecelia wears than about Cecelia’s relationship with her father, and how he used to be the one person who was always there for her (of which the novel has one line about, making it seem like a thrown in afterthought).
The names Cecelia and Alexander may seem like they were just chosen at random– but no! The author chooses to have the characters explain what their names mean, completely unnecessarily, and how that has played into their characterization the entire time (so perhaps that is why there is a lack of characterization, as one trait cannot make up an entire personality). There is a stark lack of subtext and foreshadowing– everything is completely stated for the audience. The true villain and his reasons for treachery are quite believable however given that he, like all of the other characters, seemed to have no depth, it was hard to maintain interest in him.
All in all, there seems to be no true purpose to James’ retelling. There is no driving force, no true stakes at risk. The tale is retold and finished the same way expected by anyone who has seen the Disney film.
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