Review: Kingdom of Beauty

It's hard to get back into the fairy tale retelling grind after completing such a great original fantasy series. Some fairy tale retellings are unique, while others stick pretty closely to the original story. Kingdom of Beauty by Deborah Grace White fell somewhere in the middle. It was just similar enough to the original "Beauty and the Beast" that it suffered from a case of sameness after so many other retellings. That is not to say that it was bad or poorly written. In fact, it was quite good for the first book in a new series of fairy tale retellings. It's just very vanilla.

Kingdom of Beauty by Deborah Grace White

Kingdom of Beauty is about a girl named Felicity who lives with her eccentric father and brother, Ambrose. Ambrose is friends with a bully who forces his affections on Felicity no matter how much she rejects him. Though his name is Kurt, he is such a cookie-cutter archetype that it might as well have been Gaston. Every other chapter in the book switches to the perspective of Justin, a prince who was cursed to have the body of a beast in a castle that became virtually invisible to outsiders. Only someone who looks at him and likes what they see can break the spell. The third-person narrative eliminates any confusion about whose perspective each chapter is told from, which I appreciated after reading books that swap around a lot in the first-person narrative.

We all know what happens next. Felicity's father goes on a business trip with Ambrose and disappears in the mysterious castle while trying to steal a rose for his daughter. When Felicity learns what happened, she seeks to find the castle and volunteers to take his place. There was one portion near the beginning of the book that I thought the story was going to take a very difficult turn from the fairy tale in which a dragon swoops down from out of nowhere and starts having a casual conversation with Felicity. However, things quickly fall back into the old routine and don't get interesting again until near the end of the book.

One thing I liked about this book was the way it fleshed out the magic and the kingdom as a whole. It clarified Justin's place in the monarchy as well as the corruption that went on behind the crown. It also explained that the enchantress's curse that turned him into a beast was separate from the one that hid the castle away, which makes sense since that would make it a lot harder for him to find someone to break the spell. I liked the dragon lore that will likely become a connecting thread throughout the series, although I would have liked to see more dragons since they were the only thing that made this book stand apart from other "Beauty and the Beast" retellings.

Overall, this is a standard and safe adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast." It's easy to predict most things that happen leading up to the climax, but it is still written well with a  strong setting. I would recommend this book to fans of "Beauty and the Beast" that want to read every retelling they can get their hands on as well as people who have not read a lot of fairy tale retellings already. There were some elements that made it stand apart from other adaptations, but you have to be willing to read through a lot of familiar territories to get to them.

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