Beastly Beauty

Beastly Beauty
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Release Date
May 07, 2024
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*"A dreamy, sublimely written tale." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
From New York Times bestselling, award-winning author Jennifer Donnelly comes a revolutionary, gender-swapped retelling of Beauty and the Beast that will forever change how you think about beauty, power, and what it really means to follow your heart.
What makes a girl "beastly?" Is it having too much ambition? Being too proud? Taking up too much space? Or is it just wanting something, anything, too badly?

That's the problem Arabella faces when she makes her debut in society. Her parents want her to be sweet and compliant so she can marry well, but try as she might, Arabella can't extinguish the fire burning inside her -- the source of her deepest wishes, her wildest dreams.

When an attempt to suppress her emotions tragically backfires, a mysterious figure punishes Arabella with a curse, dooming her and everyone she cares about, trapping them in the castle. As the years pass, Arabella abandons hope. The curse is her fault -- after all, there's nothing more "beastly" than a girl who expresses her anger -- and the only way to break it is to find a boy who loves her for her true self: a cruel task for a girl who's been told she's impossible to love.

When a handsome thief named Beau makes his way into the castle, the captive servants are thrilled, convinced he is the one to break the curse. But Beau -- spooked by the castle's strange and forbidding ladies-in-waiting, and by the malevolent presence that stalks its corridors at night -- only wants to escape. He learned long ago that love is only an illusion. If Beau and Arabella have any hope of breaking the curse, they must learn to trust their wounded hearts, and realize that the cruelest prisons of all are the ones we build for ourselves.

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1 review
Fun gender-swapped retelling of Beauty and the Beast
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Beastly Beauty has all the key points needed for a gender-swapped retelling of Beauty and the Beast done well. It also has commentary on trying to fit into gender roles and what happens when you are made to feel less than what you are capable of that brings heart to this tale.
Arabella is supposed to be simpering and pleasant and to want nothing more than to marry well. However, Arabella is passionate about architecture and doesn’t suffer fools easily. She spends her formative years being told she is wrong and having her dreams dashed. One rash outburst ending in tragedy is the final straw to have an evil curse befall her and her court. Now for nearly 100 years, she is a beast by night and her emotions have become externalized court members and only the darkest of them remain by her side.
Then one fateful night, Beau escapes his latest con with his fellow thieves and ends up at Arabella’s mysterious castle. When the beast comes, he is abandoned and the bridge disintegrates forcing him to stay in the haunted castle. Beau is the catalyst needed for Arabella to find love, but I like that there is an added twist at the end of exactly who she needs to love for the curse to be broken.
Along the way, Beau unlocks Hope from her prison cell, and with her sister, Faith, they do what they can to help Arabella fight her darker emotions. I like the commentary on Arabella’s emotions to show how trapped emotionally she is by the curse. It was a nice touch to get the aspect of Arabella’s nature and to point out that those around her have repressed her and helped make the current situation.
Overall, this is a lovely retelling that is empowering and contains all the aspects of Beauty and the Beast that fans are looking for. There is a bit of instant love between Arabella and Beau that could have been expanded but the pacing of events works well as it is.
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