{Review/Giveaway} THE BEAST WITHIN: A TALE OF BEAUTY'S PRINCE by Serena Valentino

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O P E N I N G   H O O K:

The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince
THE BEAST stood in his rose garden, the overwhelming scent of new blossoms making him slightly dizzy. His garden always seemed to have a life of its own, as if the twisting thorny vines could wrap themselves around his racing heart and put an end to his anxiety. There were times when he wished they would, but now his mind was filled with images of the beautiful young woman inside his castle: Belle, so brave and noble — willing to take her father's place as a prisoner in the castle dungeon. What sort of woman would do that — give up her life so easily, sacrificing her freedom for her father's? The Beast wondered if he was capable of such a sacrifice. He wondered if he was capable of love.
(Page 1, Us Hardcover Edition)

 "The only indication of what he had once been was his soulful blue eyes, which teemed with humanity. Those hadn't changed. They were still his." 


Perception is everything in a tale, the view from which you observe the plot unfolding makes all the difference in the world. For the most part, interpretations of Beauty and the Beast normally  stick to making the story Belle's. It's about how the damsel does the most important kind of saving, the saving of a soul and a heart, how sometimes a Prince needs rescuing too. What I like is that THE BEAST WITHIN by Serena Valentino didn't change that factor, but expanded upon it in intriguing ways. Most of the time the beginning of this tale is glossed over, the enchantment and the curse itself briefly acknowledged in abstract. What this retelling does is really dive into the Prince's demeanor, provides a consistent pattern of selfishness and cruelty. By the time the curse takes its hold on him you can understand why. This isn't just one instance of him refusing shelter to a haggard beggar woman.

This story belongs to the Beast, and Belle only makes brief appearances in the beginning and skirting along the edges. Most of the tale is a flashback, with interesting ideas . . . like what if the Prince and Gaston had once been friends, their vain and cruel personalities making them befitting companions. What if the charming rendition of the curse that Belle experienced was only for her eyes, talking candles, a clock with a face. For the Beast his servants are living statues, haunting him, moving only when his gaze isn't fully on him. Everything about the curse is designed to terrify and punish him and this rendition of it makes his punishment so much heavier. He doesn't get to have heart to hearts with his staff about Belle, he is woefully on his own. I also loved the idea that the curse didn't happen all at once when he was a eleven. It grew with him, inside of him, took root in any act of vanity or cruelty that he took part in. It gives the story a very Picture of Dorian Gray feel to it which makes the story a little more grown up.

Even the idea of the enchantress that cursed him got expanded upon. In this story the enchantress had loved the Prince, they were in fact engaged. But he was given a test, a what if scenario that had him thinking Circe was a pig farmer's daughter and for him that changed everything in a second. The curse that ensued as punishment was personal for the enchantress, and that gives it a different flavor. The only aspect of this book I really could have done without was Circe's sisters. They're more the picture idea of "witch" than Circe, and they attempt to mess with the Beast's fate and make the outcome more sinister in an attempt to avenge the slight their sister suffered, but I found them distracting and a bit off-putting.  Aside from that I found this new take on the classic fairytale to be interesting and different, while still taking us from the same point A to point B. For a die hard Beauty and the Beast fan I think any chance to relive some version of the tale is worth it, and I'd encourage everyone to give it a try.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The cover is fairly straightforward. The painted portrait of the Beast is sad, intimidating and familiar. I like how the rest of the cover is blackness, to emphasize the dark state he finds himself in, perhaps also his solitude. If you take the dust jacket off you're met with a surprise second image, a look at the Prince's human portrait. It's a nice little touch that I liked quite a lot!

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Serena Valentino
Release Date: July 22nd, 2014
Publisher: Disney Press
Received: Purchased

A cursed prince sits alone in a secluded castle. Few have seen him, but those who claim they have say his hair is wild and nails are sharp--like a beast's! But how did this prince, once jovial and beloved by the people, come to be a reclusive and bitter monster? And is it possible that he can ever find true love and break the curse that has been placed upon him?


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