Publisher: Disney Press
Author: Serena Valentino
Released: July 22nd 2014
Received: Library Book
The Beast Within is a twist on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast. It tells the story from Beast’s perspective, and takes liberties as needed. If you’re a stickler for staying true to the Disney version (or any other version, for that matter) than this tale may end up being annoying more than enchanting.
This is the first of Serena Valentino’s works I’ve read, but I’ve heard so much about them that hopefully that makes up for it. I’m fairly certain I can read these in any order, though during my reading I got the impression that all of villain tales will end up interacting more than I anticipated.
Other villain tales by Valentino include Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen (Snow White), Poor Unfortunate Soul: A Tale of the Sea Witch (The Little Mermaid; this will likely be the next one I read – I just can’t resist!), Mistress of Evil: A Tale of the Dark Fairy (Sleeping Beauty), and lastly Mother Knows Best: A Tale of the Old Witch (Rapunzel).
The Beast Within, as mentioned above, is a twist on a Disney classic. I’m specifically saying it’s the Disney version, since the original is much darker. In this tale we see Beast’s side of things, from the time before he was cursed up to when he’s finally free of the curse, and everything in between.
This novel takes a lot of liberties with the main concept. Some of the changes I’m okay with, others less so. I enjoyed the background of Beast’s character. Everything he had done to earn the wraith of the witch that cursed him. I still don’t approve of the witch cursing the rest of the castle; even now it’s just too harsh, but that’s another story.
I love the fact that Valentino tied Beast and Gaston together as childhood friends. This actually makes complete sense. For one thing they really were more alike than not, at least originally. Additionally it explains all the wealth Gaston had, despite living it a provincial town. If he was the royal hunter it would give him status and money, both of which explain the way he acts and lives (okay, nothing will explain all of his behavior, but you know what I mean).
Having the witch herself be a spurned lover really explains why she chose to curse Beast. Before it seemed like that he was chosen because he was both horrible and a prince (somebody capable of causing great change, should he chose to do so). However, I didn’t like that they gave the witch three sisters. I understand thematically what was being done here, however it changed the story quite a bit. All of the sudden the world felt too full of witches and magical beings. Almost overwhelming.
I did greatly enjoy seeing the love story occur through Beasts eyes. It was fun watching him realize he truly did love Belle, no matter the cost. Considering how he seemed incapable of it earlier, this is really an impressive feat.
I love stories that manage to make the villain more human. I know in this case beast was more of a gray scale character by the time Belle met him (he wasn’t a good person by any means, but he had stopped many of the behaviors that would have classified him as an evil person, so in a way he was already making progress on his own? Minus the whole imprisonment thing), but it was still interesting to see him be humanized a bit more.