Dear Serena Valentino, you have done it again. Somehow in a mere 215ish pages, you made me fall even more in love with a story that I already enjoyed, and gave a new twist on a classic tale. So if you aren’t familiar with Serena Valentino, she is a masterful writer who has taken recently to writing novels that feature villains from classic Disney tales, and allow you to see them in a new light. Her first novel like this was Fairest of All, which I absolutely adored. That novel followed the story of the evil Queen from Snow White. You can find my review here, but I absolutely loved it. The Beast Within follows the story of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and it is somehow even better then Fairest of All.
The Beast Within starts off with us meeting the Beast after he has forced Belle to stay with him to save her father. The story then goes into a flashback, where we meet the Beast when he was just a regular Prince. He and his best friend Gaston (yes, THAT Gaston) pride themselves on their hunting skills and their looks. The Prince becomes engaged to a woman, Circe, who he loves merely for her beauty. He is a pompous, arrogant man, who cares only about material things. Gaston finds out that Circe is the daughter of a pig farmer and warns the Prince, who then goes, humiliates the girl, and breaks off their engagement. But little did he know, it was all just a test, set up to see if the Prince was worthy of Circe, and it was set up by her and her Odd Sisters: Lucinda, Ruby, and Martha (who if you’ve read Fairest of All you may recognize). Because of how the Prince reacted, the Sisters decide to place a curse on him and his castle and servants; if he doesn’t change his ways, he will become the beast outside that he is within. But when nothing happens to the Prince, he thinks that it was all some sort of joke, but when he meets another woman, Tulip and becomes engaged to her, and treats her poorly, the curse begins to take effect and he slowly begins to transform as do the others in his castle.
This is such a good story! I really love re-tellings and Serena has not disappointed me yet with these books. Once again the novel is absolutely beautiful, the dust jacket is of the Beast, while the actual cover of the book is him as the Prince (she only ever refers to him as the Prince and never as Adam). The cover on this and Fairest of All are just so stunning and beautiful and detailed, like you can see the individual hairs on the Beast and everything, just so pretty.
I like that this novel interconnected with Fairest of All as well. In that novel the Odd Sisters were actually cousins to the King and so we first met them and their trickery there. Now we see them years later with a younger sister Circe, and it seems more tricks and manipulation. I also like that we see more to Gaston. He actually played a large part throughout the entire story, as he was the Prince’s best friend who eventually turned into the man who would try to kill the Beast. We don’t see much of Belle in this book, but we’re not meant to anyway. The book is meant to be an explanation of what led the Prince to being cursed and that is certainly something that we can see throughout the story. He is not a good character. He’s crude, arrogant, materialistic, abusive, and just all-in-all not a good guy. Honestly I was rooting for the Sisters as they were cursing him and I could understand why they wanted so badly for him to never break the curse. He’s just not very likable at all and through his transformation he just becomes more and more violent. But somehow in the end you end up rooting for him, and I think that largely has to do with Circe. For her, it is never her goal to see him fail and become a beast forever, she wants to see him succeed and find the compassion and love that is hidden within him. And I really think that that is why you end up feeling sorry for him, because up until that, he just continues to prove what a bastard he is over and over again.
I really just fell in love with this book. If you’re a fan of fairy tale re-tellings then this is a really great quick read that I highly recommend!