I thrive on Beauty and the Beast retellings, but my, is Beauty Reborn a just-okay trip through the same story beats. The Beauty here annoys, the Beast is mediocre, and the story doesn’t do that much to differentiate itself from every other take I’ve seen on the material.
Beauty wants anything but to fall in love with Stephan Galliford. But her family’s fortunes have turned to ashes thanks to her father’s poor investments, so on to the marriage mart she goes. Stephan is, supposedly, the heir to a barony, and Beauty’s family can definitely use the cash infusion the marriage will bring. Beauty soon finds herself being willingly wined and dined by him. But soon she learns of his falseness his lies, and his cruelty.
Then her father breaks into the seemingly abandoned castle to shelter during a storm. His theft of a golden rose results in the master of the place demanding his imprisonment. Beauty goes in his place to this magical castle to serve out his debt; after all, doing so will allow her to dodge marriage to Stephan, a suit her father continues to press. The literate Beauty becomes the illiterate Beast’s reader, and takes to telling him stories. A bond begins to form, but can Beauty overcome her ghosts to claim her full life?
Beauty Reborn suffers from several things, including the fact that it doesn’t change much from the Disney version of the tale, just adding darker shades of rape, trauma and self-harm to the mix. We even have a sad, emotional wardrobe who keeps trying to convince Beauty to wear luxurious clothing. An example of our heroine’s shrillness: she refuses to wear said clothing and yells the poor wardrobe into giving her back her regular clothes until it buckles in sadness.
And aye, for there’s the rub – Lowham’s Beauty confuses strength with nastiness and infodumping monologues to the somewhat-monosyllabic-at-first Beast with imparting useful information. But she is a raw, bruised, person trying to cope with her scars and damage; it’s impossible to completely dislike her. Sometimes her bravery and stiffneckedness is quite appealing. And all of the material connected to the sexual assault she faces is beautifully handled. She loves animals, reads, plays the violin, but is not insipid. A mixed bag of a heroine.
Her beast – whose name is revealed soon enough but whose name I will not spoil – is more cold and withdrawn and sheltered within himself than most takes I’ve seen on the character, but he’s likable, eventually even playful.
What is good is Beauty’s relationship with her father (lovely to a fault), and with her sister Callista. Her rivalry with her jealous older sister I’ve seen a million times before.
There’s some Cocteau-ish creepiness in the way the castle operates and draws who it wants to it, and a genuine tenderness in Beauty and Beast’s developing relationship. I derived too much enjoyment from these parts to give the story a D, but didn’t love what was left enough to give it more than a middling grade. Beauty Reborn reaches for greatness, but doesn’t distinguish itself from the pile enough to make it really interesting. Still, it’s a okay way to pass the afternoon.
Note: This book contains on-page sexual assault that cuts to black, flashbacks and panic related to that assault, and self-harm.
Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
|Review Date:||May 12, 2023|
|Book Type:||Young Adult|
|Review Tags:||Fairy Tale | fantasy|
Yelling at the poor wardrobe because she doesn’t want to wear fancy clothing? She sounds like a “pick me.” :|
She is VERY much a pick-me for most of this novel.