An item of business, first. When I put Wildwood Dancing on my list for the Once Upon a Time challenge, I was confident that my wonderful local library would have it in and I would get to read it. Well, it’s days before the challenge ends, and, my wonderful local library has failed me. The book is still “on order” and since I’m the second person in line to read it, it ain’t goin’ to happen, at least for this challenge. (Oh, I know, I could BUY the book, but I have a thing about buying books before I read them, because if I don’t like it, I feel like it’s a waste of money, and yes, I know that’s a hangup I have. But then, that’s why there are libraries, right?)

So. I wandered the stacks, and discovered Beast, by Donna Jo Napoli. You have to understand that I read Zel by Napoli probably 10 years ago and had such a viscerally negative reaction (don’t remember why) to it, that I’ve avoided Napoli books since. So it was amazing that I even managed to take it home, let alone read it.

And I remembered why I didn’t like Napoli books.

It’s not the stories — this one is Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s point of view, with an added twist that he was Persian and Muslim — it’s the storytelling. It’s not just that she’s incredibly graphic in her descriptions of things (did I really NEED to know about how Prince Orasmyn rutted with lionesses soon after he was transformed? Really?) but it’s also that she just gets lost in page after page after page of internal monologue and exposition. Which really got dull after a while. I didn’t care all that much about Orasmyn or his plight (I think I was supposed to), and I didn’t feel the transformation. How did he come to love Belle? Why? Was it just because she was there? He wasn’t a sympathetic prince. Then there was the whole unanswered questions at the end. He’s Muslim, she’s Christian. How are they going to make this relationship work? Is she going to go back to Persia with him? Will she convert? (He won’t.) How will she deal with life in Persia? Will they just stay in the castle in France, instead? (Okay, maybe it’s just me that has these questions at the end of the book. )

While I didn’t hate this book, it did little to change my opinion of Napoli.

In other news, I saw Midsummer Night’s Dream on Friday and loved it. And I’m going to try and read it, and now that I can picture what’s going on in my mind, I’ll probably enjoy it more.


7 thoughts on “Beast

  1. Donna Jo Napoli was my linguistics professor in college!My daughter liked one of her books a lot. I can’t remember the title, but it was about a nixie or pixie or brownie or some other kind of sprite.


  2. Oh yeah, and I also meant to say, I share your hangup about buying books. I even check cookbooks out of the library to try a few recipes before buying.


  3. I feel the same way about Napoli’s fairy tale books (she’s done quite a few). I always go in with high hopes wanting to like the book and end up deeply disappointed.Try her first one though, The Prince of the Pond (the frog prince, from the POV of the lady frog who rescues him). It’s readable and quite funny but she also manages to maintain the gravity of the practical questions the story raises (what happens to the frog prince’s little tadpoles when he gets turned back into a prince?) without going into the dark and graphic areas she explores in her later books.


  4. I’ve only read one Napoli book, Mary Called Magdalene. While I did enjoy that one, I haven’t tried any of her fairytale takeoffs. I just can’t do it. I started one once and it didn’t do a thing for me.Bah!


  5. Yes! Second on the Robin McKinley take on Beauty and the Beast!Just be warned that she rewrote the story again twenty years later -Rose Daughter- and that one is.. rather less good, to be polite. In my opinion. 🙂


  6. Ah, Becky, Beauty is one of my favorite books. Robin McKinley is such a masterful storyteller. And, Jess, I even enjoyed Rose Daughter, though I agree, it’s less good. 🙂 I may attempt Mary Called Magdeline, Andi. The title, at least, intrigues me.


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