Review: Beauty and the Beast by K.M. Shea

After completing her mediocre "Cinderella" novel that focused mostly on taxes, I was only going to review The Little Selkie and Swan Lake from K.M. Shea's Timeless Tales series, but then she released Beauty and the Beast for free. I just can't say no to a free princess book, so I read it, suffering through every cold and tedious page. Beauty and the Beast is the first book in the Timeless Tales series, and the lack of experience shows. The book commits many amateur writing decisions and pushes its audience further and further away from the characters as a result. It's probably the worst adaptation I've read of "Beauty and the Beast" in my short life.

K.M. Shea's Beauty and the Beast focuses on a girl named Elle as the "Beauty" character with a well-mannered "Beast" named Prince Severin. As a result of somehow falling through the roof of Severin's castle and breaking her leg, Elle must stay with him as his guest while his servants see to her recovery. My biggest issue with the book is that Elle was completely disconnected from the audience for the vast majority of the story. Even though the story is mostly told from Elle's perspective, we don't learn why she was on the roof until the last quarter of the book, making it difficult to root for her. She drops hints about being a spy and covering up her identity, but we don't know what her true identity is, which creates a disconnect between the protagonist and the reader. Elle also shows very little emotion, which makes it hard to even feel bad when she breaks her leg and is forced to live in the palace. Unlike the original fairy tale in which she sacrifices herself to protect her family, we don't know what she's doing there for most of the book, and she shows few signs of being sad or afraid to be so far from home.

This is also the least romantic version of "Beauty and the Beast" I've ever seen. Even though Elle is not afraid of Severin despite his giant cat head, she is not particularly drawn to him either. Severin does not see Elle as a viable option to break his curse due to the completely understandable reason that she is clearly hiding something from him (as well as the audience). Even after the curse is broken, her secret nearly rips the two star-crossed lovers apart, allowing no opportunity for romance. Only Severin's servants see the chemistry between Elle and Severin, but they have selfish reasons as well. The curse took away their faces and voices, forcing them to wear masks and write on slates. Their schemes to bring Elle and Severin together would allow them to recover their identities once the curse is broken.

The lack of emotion in this book made it painful to read. Elle was just as cold and calculating of a heroine as Cinderella from Cinderella and Colonel. Not knowing her true identity or goals made her even more difficult to relate to. Each chapter listed more of her calculated attempts to cover up her unknown secret which I quickly lost interest in. There were also chapters in which Severin had political discussions with his brother, Lucien. These sections felt very out of place considering that the story was supposed to be a romance. The political discussions appeared to have no relation to Elle and her situation in the castle and just dragged on and on like meaningless drivel. The final payoff was not worth so many confusing pages of cold emotionless plots and secrets.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to fans of "Beauty and the Beast" because it lacks all of the warmth and romance that made the fairy tale great. Elle is a bland and frigid character with a hidden backstory and a broken leg, and Severin acts just like any other prince, giving him no rough outer shell for Elle to break through. The most interesting character in the book is a servant girl named Emele who befriends Elle, but she does not have a big enough part to make it worth reading. If you want to read a truly good "Beauty and the Beast" adaptation, check out A Tale of Beauty and the Beast by Melanie Cellier.


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