As much as I love fairy tale retellings, this is the first time I've read Beauty by Robin McKinley. Since it was published the year I was born, written before the concept was popular, it can be considered the grandmother of all fairy tale retellings. It has been remiss of me not to have read it before, but I didn't enjoy the only other novel by McKinley I've read and was hesitant about reading another. I very much enjoyed this one though.
This retelling follows the original tale closely. The only real difference is in the dynamics of Beauty's family. Also, Beauty's actual name is Honor. Beauty is a nickname that is a family joke. At the beginning of the novel she is in her adolescence and has not reached her potential. Believing herself to be plain, she avoids mirrors and doesn't realize when her name becomes a reality. Being the plain sister frees Beauty to become the smart sister. She reads voraciously and studies languages.
The book has a similar style to the original tale. It is highly descriptive and a slow exploration of Beauty's feelings, character, and motivations. The slow pace gave the love story time to progress naturally and for the reader to feel the connection formed through the shared interests of Beauty and the Beast. The slow pace picked up at the end to such a degree that I felt left behind. So much happened all at once and little of it made much sense. I would have preferred it if pace of the end had matched that of the rest of the book.
The enchanted elements of the castle added a magic and mystery I enjoyed. I think the Disney filmmakers must have been fans. The most interesting aspect of this was the library which is massive and contains every book in existence, including ones not yet written.
I want that library.