Review: Before Beauty

"Beauty and the Beast" is the most popular source for the fairy tale novel adaptations that I've read, so it's no surprise that it was the inspiration for the first book in Brittany Fichter's Classical Kingdoms Collection series. I was reluctant to read Before Beauty after seeing a preview of the first chapter and after my disappointment with several other books in this series. Now that I've read it, I do not have much motivation to read the two sequels as neither of the main characters were particularly interesting. Brittany loves torturing her characters, which was made very apparent in her Autumn Fairy trilogy, and this book was no exception. Some people enjoy reading about characters who suffer. I am not one of those people.

Before Beauty by Brittany Fichter

The preview I read a while ago for Before Beauty involved a description of the young Prince Everard helping a petite girl at a public event before accidentally pushing her in front of a moving carriage that ran her over and permanently malformed her wrist and ankle. After seeing this preview, I had very little interest in reading the rest of the book. As guilty as Ever felt, this horrible accident made him a difficult character to relate to and not one that I had much interest in learning more about. The rest of the book follows his quest for redemption, but only after another monstrous decision on his part to execute all disabled citizens in his kingdom. This is a disgusting move that makes his beastly curse well-earned and hard-pressed for forgiveness.

Conversely, Isabelle, the "beauty" character, is defined mostly by the injuries she suffered as a child when Ever pushed her in front of the wagon. She once had a promising future as a dancer that was lost to her when she became a cripple. She is certainly a more sympathetic character than Ever, but not all that interesting. Her tale begins with an obvious ripoff of Legally Blonde when her boyfriend dumps her because he wants to become a politician and needs a physically strong wife to enhance his public image. At this point, Isa has nothing left to leave behind when she learns that her father made a deal with the wicked prince to let her stay in his castle fortress. She runs away from her family to the enchanted fortress to protect them and comes face to face with the man who caused her misfortunes so many years prior.

Ever has some growth when he is forced to face his guilt over what he did to Isa, but he starts out in such a low place that there's really nowhere else for him to go. I also wasn't a big fan of how this book handled magic. "Beauty and the Beast" has the potential to be one of the most enchanting stories ever told. Before Beauty certainly has magic in it, but it's presented in a weird and confusing way. As a royal, Ever inherits the ability to emit blue flames from his hands, but the only time we ever see him do so effectively is when he hurts Isa as a child. This aspect of the story has the potential to go in the direction of Frozen with a powerful scene where he lets his powers loose in a stunning display or at the very least find a way for him to use his magic for good, but it is barely addressed outside of the harm it caused to the heroine. The ghosts that haunt the castle also have the potential to create intrigue, but all they do is torment Isabelle by not letting her wear the boots that she needs for medical reasons. As servants, it's rather shocking how cruel they are to the new mistress that Everard incited.

Before Beauty is an okay retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," but it's not for me. Brittany prides herself on Christian fiction, so it's possible that I missed some key factors of the story since I was raised in a Jewish household. She may also have been trying to find her footing as an author since this was the first book in her Classical Kingdoms series. I loved A Curse of Gems, one of the latest books in the series, so I know her writing improved with practice. If you are looking for a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" with torment and religious themes, this is a good option for you. If you want something sweeter and more magical, I recommend The Enchanted Rose by R.M. ArceJaeger, which flawlessly combines the stories of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Sleeping Beauty."

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