Book Review: Beauty by Sarah Pinborough


Beauty by Sarah Pinborough, Tales of the Kingdom #3

BEAUTY is a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the ancient curse, the sleeping girl and, of course, the haunting castle) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It's fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more.

I have heard a lot of positive news about Sarah Pinborough's Tales of the Kingdom but haven't had the chance to pick up one of the stories. I have, however read Mayhem and Murder from Sarah Pinborough and with those books she really proved her worth. Managing both to scare the hell out of me and intrigue me to the fullest. So when the opportunity presented itself to review the third story in the Tales of the Kingdom, Beauty, I readily jumped to the occasion to read it. Though it is a fairly short book with only 210 pages it's a full reading experience and Sarah Pinborough deftly lays her hand on some of the classic fairy tales and completely spins them into her own direction. 

The title of the book Beauty directly hints towards a new adaptation of the classic Sleeping Beauty story from the original Charles Perrault and the Brother Grimm fairy tale. When I picked up Beauty I expected only the re-imagining of Sarah Pinborough to feature in it. However just a few pages in a got a lot more than I dared to imagine as she introduces several other highly popular fairy tales into that of Sleeping Beauty. Those of Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin. You might think, wow what a bold move using these well known and highly popular fairy tales and mashing them up into one story and well if I hadn't read the story and would be confronted by this I would definitely agree. I think it is very tricky combining them and could have turned out to be for the worse. But read that last sentence again, could have, which means it didn't. Sarah Pinborough deftly picks up elements from each of these fairy tales and uses them in her advantage. What I have come to learn so far from her other stories it that Sarah Pinborough is one of those authors that just knows how to write a very creative story and that dares to explore new ways. 

The story in Beauty focuses on the prince that also featured in the first two books of the series, Charm and Poison. In Beauty the King and Queen decide that their prince has to have had seen adventure once in his life. It is said that in their neighboring  kingdom, untold riches are hidden, bringing back some of these riches will be just the right adventure for the young prince. The King and Queen decide that the young prince does require a bodyguard along the way, you never know what might turn up in an dense forest that surrounds the place that he will be traveling to. And indeed, as the Prince and the Huntsman make their way toward the neighboring kingdom they meet up with a young and innocent girl called Petra, in a red cloak, that was bringing some food to her grandmother. The group soon grows to three and the prince, huntsman and Petra make their way through the forest to the kingdom. They stumble upon a house wherein one young girl sleeps, intrigued by several older stories that a prince should kiss a princess, the prince follows-up on this and wakes the princess, or rather Queen. Called Beauty. Beauty isn't called Beauty without a reason, she is stunning and gorgeous and soon manages to win the prince over, they fall in love. Well now you might think this is the ending and they lived happily ever after... if you think this.. you will be in for a surprise. Waking up Beauty is just the beginning of it all. Soon after the reawakening of Beauty, other older stories start to reach the surface, stories of darker times... Where the Beast made an appearance and did horrific things. I am not going to tell more about the story itself as it would spoil just too much for the reading experience. You are in for quite the surprise, it was very enjoyable to read the parts after the awakening of Beauty, it shows that Sarah Pinborough definitely shows off her skill in weaving and one-of-a-kind story. 

As for the characters that feature in the Beauty, they have the basics of the ones that you perhaps have read about in their respective fairy tales. Featuring them in a book gave them a much better handle and grip. Mainly because as a reader you really get to see just how they act and what they are thinking, also the relation between them add a lot to the characters. Where the original fairy tales might have provided a more static characters, in Beauty they are much more diverse and dynamic and there is some development going on as well. In her character cast, Sarah Pinborough uses several characters from the fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin and Little Red Riding Hood. As with alternate fantasy when using historic characters I can only imagine that it must be a daunting task when writing about well established characters, even if they are folklore. I have to give a hand to Sarah Pinborough that she created some marvelous characters, yes they have a lot of how they appeared in their original fairy tales but she also gives them her own spin, creating some well-fleshed characters. 

Beauty really owes up to it's name, first, it's a highly imaginative retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty with tones of Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin thrown in the mix. Second the story is just utterly beautifully crafted and executed and Sarah Pinborough writes with a flourish. The narration that is used really created the right atmosphere for a this modern fairy tale. Though the book is short, it has a ton of flavour, Sarah Pinborough hasn't used all the elements of the different fairy tales but stripped them down and only used the things that she wanted to use. With combining so many fairy tales, you might think that there are info dumps around each corner, this is far from the reality, because we all know the original once, so there is hardly any information required, so this again works well in the favor of Beauty. Sarah Pinborough already won me over with Mayhem and Murder and now again with Beauty, I really have to check out more of her books. They are really top notch! Just lastly, the ending of Beauty, might hint towards another Tales of the Kingdom, fingers crossed!

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