Review: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast

All good things must come to an end. Thus, I have completed the last book released so far in the Beyond the Four Kingdoms series by Melanie Cellier. There are more books coming out later in the year, so I will be reviewing those in time, but this will be the last one for a while. A Tale of Beauty and the Beast is directly linked to its prequel, A Dance of Silver and Shadow. It is told from the perspective of Sophie, Lily's twin sister, who was introduced in the first Four Kingdoms book, The Princess Companion. As a direct result of the events from A Dance of Silver and Shadow, Sophie is forced into an unwanted engagement with a "Beast" who was once called Prince Dominic and must live in his mysteriously isolated castle. The story draws inspiration from the original fairy tale, the Disney movie, and the mythology that Melanie has developed within her series.

In A Tale of Beauty and the Beast, Sophie still possesses the same ability to telepathically communicate with her twin sister as in the previous book, but it does not work within the confines of the Beast's castle. She has never been separated from her sister so completely before, which gives her reason to resent the beast, making her feel more alone than ever. That is in part why it takes so long for her to recognize her feelings for him. Sophie's connection with Lily is every bit as touching as it was in A Dance of Silver and Shadow, but it also replaces the beautiful relationship that Beauty had with her father in the original fairy tale. In fact, their parents are rarely mentioned at all in either book. The significance of the rose is also much smaller in this version.  The Beast does present Sophie with beautiful multi-toned roses as a gift, but they hold no magical binding properties over his curse as in the Disney movie or her commitment stay with him in the castle as in the original fairy tale.

I think the thing enjoyed the most was the way the cursed servants were handled in this story. Though it takes Sophie a while to realize it, their physical forms were moved to another plane of existence because of the curse, causing objects to appear to be floating or cleaning themselves. Sophie learns to become friends with them in spite of this and gets to know all of their fun and interesting personalities. The Beast's physical appearance is also linked to their curse. It allows him to exist between the two planes so that he can be seen in both worlds, but not in the same form as he appeared when he was Prince Dominic. Just like in the Charles Perrault version of the fairy tale, the Beast asks Sophie to marry him nightly, which she takes to with great disdain before growing closer to him as a result of being rescued from the wolves outside the castle, mirroring the animated film.

While I did not find Sophie's romance with Prince Dominic as endearing as some of the other love stories in the two series, the climax of this book was still very powerful. It was clear that they belonged together by the end. It was fun reading about how Sophie gradually learned to communicate with the Beast on an intellectual and later emotional level as it blossomed into something deeper. Seeing her bravery in such an uncomfortable situation made the book more enjoyable to read than A Dance of Silver and Shadow since there were no scared little girls in over their heads. In the end, the book was just as much about the strength of Sophie's relationship with Prince Dominic as it was about her relationship with Lily. I would even argue that her connection with her sister was stronger, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that since they are identical twins who confided in each other and depended on each other for most of their lives.

Overall, A Tale of Beauty and the Beast is a fresh take on the story of "Beauty and the Beast" with the perfect combination of old and new elements. Sophie's time while she is isolated in the castle never feels dull because she uncovers new mysteries it in each chapter, showing us that there is always something new to explore. It is a story of love overcoming all odds, whether that love comes from a princess seeing the prince within a beast or an unbreakable life-long bond between sisters. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the fairy tale, but it would be a good idea to read A Dance of Silver and Shadow first because it lays the groundwork for the events that take place when A Tale of Beauty and the Beast begins.


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