Beast - Donna Jo Napoli
To this day, reading this book again has left me with the strangest of feelings. This is the kind of book that appears as one thing, then starts off in the most unexpected of settings. By the end, though, it turns around to find you on the edge of your seat and cheering once that last page comes. It is a book that rewards you if you stick to the journey that it's taking you on, which is one of sometimes tedious self discovery, but also unusual circumstance.

Our main character, Prince Orasmyn, is the "Beast" of the story, and unlike the popular Disney movie, this book is told entirely from his point of view. In this way, it gives us the unusual chance to look at the "Beauty and the Beast" tale from another angle completely because we are allowed to see what led up to the curse put on the Prince that turned him into the "Beast". The telling is innovative, rooted in the Persian culture flawlessly, and has a tale 5% of magic and 95% charm and struggle. The book starts off in the center of Persia, and as such, is a book that is teeming with culture and not afraid of itself at all. It guides you through everything by the hand, making it easy for you to understand what's going on and taking you step by step through what struck me as a cultural change of dramatic effect. I know very little of Persian culture or their religious beliefs, but even if everything seemed strange to me, I was able to get into the book fairly easily. Not to mention, just because the environment is unusual, it didn't detract from the interest of the story whatsoever. Odd though the various situations were, they were suspenseful, strange, and still intriguing.

While many people may be turned away by a book that has such an odd beginning, and may lose hope of any of these "Beauty and the Beast" vibes by the time the middle of the book hits, the very best part is once you get over that middle mountain. But this style of book does end up with me needing to give the warning: This is a book primarily of self-discovery as opposed to a direct romance. The romantic aspects, while present, come as a much later spice to this meal. It's there and it only intensifies the beauty of the story, but it is not what you should be counting on seeing from beginning to end. More, the romance aspect of this book comes as a reward as Prince Orasmyn grows more and more. As far as I'm concerned, that's what made the book so engaging in the first place and what makes the payoff at the end so worthwhile. To travel with this Prince who truly thinks he knows all and can suffer no consequences until he learns naturally about the world and how to survive makes for an interesting journey. When love and possible freedom from the curse cast on him come, it makes all of the small, gradual changes inside of him that much more beautiful.

I think that's the final word I can say about this book. The subtlety and rewards at the end are what make it all the more enjoyable a read. While some people may find the build-up boring or dull, the few who don't mind a bit of adventuring while they wait for the gradual romantic moments to come will find this book worthwhile.

Final Recommendation

Taking that into mind, I would call this one a library book for most, especially those interested solely in the romantic aspects. Trying it out to see if it's up your alley is a much better idea than spending the money on it if you're not sure. For those who enjoy fairy-tale retellings however, this is a book that will 100% add diversity into your collection. I would definitely recommend you buying it. It's not shy and it's not dainty either. It is openly bold and has a peculiar beauty to it that I'm sure many people would appreciate if they gave it the chance and didn't let themselves get caught off guard by the unusual choice of settings and characters.

Definitely give this one a shot. You might find it all worth it should you choose to stick with it to the end.