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The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince Hardcover – July 22, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–6—Many children grow up with some familiarity with the story of Beauty and the Beast, particularly the Walt Disney version. Readers often admire the beautiful and smart Belle, a devoted daughter and booklover, who is as lovely on the inside as the outside. That she could come to love such a horrific-looking and reclusive creature is testament to her kind nature. And yet, readers know so little of this mysterious Beast and of the spell that caused him to become an outcast within his own kingdom. In this spin-off from Disney's retelling of the old tale, Valentino does her best to expand upon the Beast's side of things: What was it that transformed the handsome and charming Prince into a Beast? Gaston plays a big role in this story, as does a competing love interest of both male characters, Tulip. Belle doesn't appear until toward the end, as this book operates as a prelude to the film. Some new characters add interest, such as the Odd Sisters, a trio of witches spurred by a broken heart and a zeal for revenge. As interesting as that premise is, the book is weighted down by clunky writing, shallow character development, a lack of depth and nuance. It will likely appeal to only the most die-hard fans of the Disney film.—Meg Allison, The Moretown School, VT

Review

Gr 4-6 Many children grow up with some familiarity with the story of Beauty and the Beast, particularly the Walt Disney version. Readers often admire the beautiful and smart Belle, a devoted daughter and booklover, who is as lovely on the inside as the outside. That she could come to love such a horrific-looking and reclusive creature is testament to her kind nature. And yet, readers know so little of this mysterious Beast and of the spell that caused him to become an outcast within his own kingdom. In this spin-off from Disney's retelling of the old tale, Valentino does her best to expand upon the Beast's side of things: What was it that transformed the handsome and charming Prince into a Beast? Gaston plays a big role in this story, as does a competing love interest of both male characters, Tulip. Belle doesn't appear until toward the end, as this book operates as a prelude to the film. Some new characters add interest, such as the Odd Sisters, a trio of witches spurred by a broken heart and a zeal for revenge. As interesting as that premise is, the book is weighted down by clunky writing, shallow character development, a lack of depth and nuance. It will likely appeal to only the most die-hard fans of the Disney film. Meg Allison, The Moretown School, VT—SLJ

A retelling of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, told from the Beast's perspective. The story opens as the Beast contemplates whether Belle-recently made a prisoner in his castle-will ever come to love him. The timeline then moves backward to the days when the Beast was a human prince, and so begins a story that is predictable-when it isn't entirely ridiculous-and filled with characters as flat as the pages they're written on. As a human prince, the Beast spurns the love of Circe, who turn out to be the younger sister of the "odd sisters," witches whose behavior is so nonsensical it's a wonder they stop cackling long enough to curse him. Though the pre-Beast Prince certainly deserves his curse, whether any actual human being could contain the degree of vanity, selfishness and conceit the Prince exhibits is questionable. One interesting curveball comes in the presentation of the Prince and Gaston (the vain sportsman romantically interested in Belle) as childhood best friends. However, the blandness of the characters negates anything interesting that might have sprung from this twist, which is not nearly enough to save the story as a whole. With clunky writing, an uninspired plot and unbelievably one-dimensional characters (including villains so absurd no one would fear them), this spinoff effort is disappointing at best. (Fantasy. 12-18)—Kirkus

The tale of a beautiful girl transforming a beast to his original princely form is a familiar and often retold one, but the story of how exactly the prince initially came to be cursed and why is less well known. Valentino sets her version of the prince's perspective in the Disney world, with Cogsworth, Lumiere, and even Mrs. Potts all making an appearance. The setting and the plot are far darker here, however, and musical numbers with dancing cutlery are replaced by the internal contemplations of an increasingly melancholic and occasionally violent Beast as he transforms from human to monster. It begins with the Prince's betrayal of Circe, a young maiden whom he initially woos for her beauty and then rejects when he discovers she is merely a pig farmer's daughter. Her older sisters, a trio of magical witches, vengefully cast a spell on the Prince, and the spoiled, selfish man futilely tries to outrun his fate, losing his human form and almost his mind in the process. Valentino is so successful at making the Prince unlikable that he seems nearly irredeemable, and a disjointed timeline makes it difficult to identify the chronology of the moral transformation that must precede his physical one. The combination of the Disney tie-in and the thoughtful, more folkloric elements, though, makes this an interesting choice for readers who've outgrown the pink-princess phase but are still captivated by fairy tales. KQG—BCCB

4Q 4P M This prequel to Beauty and the Beast is presented as a young adult title, yet its layout and format might attract a middle-grade population. The writing is polished and appealing to young teens, with just enough spin on the old tale to encourage young readers to stay with the story. Valentino brings back the Macbethian "Odd Sisters"-young witches with a definite nod to Shakespeare's Weird Sisters-who first appeared in her retelling of Snow White, Fairest of All (Disney, 2009), in which we can see the villain's point of view. The author knows the structure of fairy tales and enhances this one with some new characters who bring life to the "tale as old as time." She also weaves in a few threads from the old film version by Cocteau and hints at Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. Readers learn how the Beast came to be cursed; witness quite a bit of his backstory, as well as those of the other familiar faces, like Belle's father; and feel satisfied by the conclusion and the hopeful message that beauty comes from within. The popularity of television series such as Once Upon a Time and Grimm make this book even more appealing to contemporary young readers. This volume will do well in middle school library collections, as well as medium-sized public libraries with solid tween collections.-Jane Murphy.—VOYA
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Disney Press (July 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423159128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423159124
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Freidel on August 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I happen to stumble upon the book today when I was at Disney World. I read Fairest of Them All and from what I remember, I liked it and was touched at the ending... (Now, I need to go back and reread that one to make sure my memory isn't playing tricks on me). So, of course when I saw there was another one out, I scooped it up and bought it. I am not joking when I say this. I read this in two hours, praying that it would eventually get better.... That was a pipe dream.
Please don't get me wrong, the concept behind it is good. But that is where it stops.
The writing is terrible. Seriously, the reference Buttchinland is used.
The fact that modern day terminology and phrases are used in a period piece drove me up a wall.
The character development is disastrous. More attention was put into what the characters look like than who they actually are and their back stories.
The Prince/ Beast (who never actually receives a name) is a downright despicable human being who gets the fairy tale ending. I was almost hopefully Belle would find out all the terrible things he had done and walk away.
You are left feeling completely satisfied at the end (rushed much, by the way?) and wondering if this was just the first draft for this book.
I have never ever returned a book on my life but I'll make sure I do with this one...
What a joke.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I actually loved the book. It was a very dark look into The Beast early tortured life. I thought it was genius that in this book The Beast didn't just turned INTO the beast like in the movie. It was gradually he morphed into the Beast noticing little menacing things in his appearance changing the darker his heart got. I also loved how everyone who entered the castle saw the CURSE in a different view as in Belle could talk to the enchanted servants but the Beast couldn't & was horrified that as his servants slowly disappeared theses inanimate objects would appear as somewhat haunted or possessed house hold objects that had the voices of his once dear servants but every time he came around to see them they'd be regular inanimate house hold objects again. It was a very dark twist that I loved along with Gaston being his childhood best friend and how they slowly forgot each due to the curses power.

The only 2 thing that could've been fixed is the "Abrupt Ending", I would of loved to see The Beast learn through Belle what became of the servants instead of at the end he's just happy to see them again when the curses lifted.

But other than those two things I love this Darker Retelling of Disney's Beauty & The Beast. This book was a lot better than the movie Maleficent where they made "Disney Best Villain" a hero at the end. Anyway when the make the Live Action Beauty & The Beast I hope they use some of the Dark elements of this book in the movie. Long LIVE DARK DISNEY.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By cat¢¾dog¢¾bunnyperson on February 4, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Props for the idea, but it really when a little to far off to the left field. Technically, the author used characters in the story, if you consider the three witches to be the three blond chicks wooing over Gaston.....but I bet they're not them. If you loved the original Disney Beauty and the Beast, then you will not enjoy this book. The idea is wonderful, but the author changed the most vital parts of the movie. The old lady that offers a single rose in exchange for shelter at his castle is not the same in the book. She is made out to be a girl who the Beast is engaged to until he finds out she's a pig farmer's daughter, which he rejects promptly. She magically makes herself deteriorate in front of him and begs for his love with a single rose....Right.....AND the Beast doesn't even know that his servants have been transformed into inanimate objects. How the fruit pebbles did he interact with them in the movie then?
You can't change the story. You just can't change the basic core of the story and then go on to force new information into it. I can only speak for myself, but I wanted to see the "behind the scene" story as promised. I think the advertisement for this book is misleading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Lang on August 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this story. It showed how the Beast/Prince learned what true love was and wasn't. Granted Belle wasn't a major character in the book and there wasn't detail about how he won her affection, but I except that's because there's a good chance that we've seen the movie or read other stories. The focus of this story was a previous relationship, and offered details into how the curse changed the prince and the castle over time. Very enjoyable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Dressbac on September 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Oh, my. First off, I have to start by saying that I absolutely love (as in want to marry) the Disney film 'Beauty and the Beast' (seriously, can anything be better than that wolf scene?) I also loved Serena Valentino's interpretation of the Evil Queen in her book 'Fairest of All'. Naturally, reading this book was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the book didn't seem to have brains, either. While 'Fairest' heightened the story of Snow White and really made the Queen a more likeable (and understandable) character, 'Beast' muddled the story. It was obvious the book was rushed, and characters were not as fleshed out as they could have been. Valentino could have done a lot more with the Prince's backstory, but instead she tried to give him another "love" interest, made Gaston his hunting buddy (can you believe that?) and incorporated those three witches from 'Fairest' into the book. I don't entirely think this is her fault, however. I can practically hear her editor and publisher saying, "hurry up! Finish the book! We've got to get it out!" while reading each page, and unfortunately, the muddled plot shows. If you're a huge fan of 'Beauty and the Beast' like I am, then just watch the movie. Don't give yourself a headache trying to figure out how this backstory is possible.
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