2019 has accidentally become a year of retellings for me. I’ve read eight retellings so far this year, and four of them – Circe; Daughter of the Forest; Miranda in Milan; Spinning Silver – got five stars, with Spinning Silver earning itself a spot on my list of all-time favourite fantasy books the more I think about it.
In March I read Grace Draven for the first time, an author of Romantasy whose work I’m planning to read more of throughout the year, when I picked up her retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Entreat Me.
I enjoyed Entreat Me a lot more than I thought I would, and I don’t know why I’m so surprised when Disney’s 1991 adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is my favourite film. I think it might be because of that, however, that I rarely reach for Beauty and the Beast retellings, because when I think of Beauty and the Beast it’s that version that immediately springs to mind.
Recently, though, I’ve found myself in possession of a few Beauty and the Beast retellings, so I thought I’d share them with you today and ask you the all-important question: which one should I read first?
As Old as Time by Liz Braswell
Very closely associated with my favourite film, this book is one of Disney’s Twisted Tales books. I actually received this one as a gift for either Christmas or my birthday from my sister and brother-in-law in a box set with a couple of others. They both know how much of a Disney nerd I am, so it was a well chosen gift.
I’m not expecting anything particularly special from this book, the reviews I’ve seen haven’t been great, but oh my gosh it sounds like fun and I actually really like the concept. In this version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle does touch the enchanted rose when she sneaks into the West Wing and, when she does, discovers that the enchantress who cursed the Beast was her own mother. That is a concept I can get behind, and I think this book will be a really quick, easy and entertaining read.
Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher
I recently read and loved T. Kingfisher’s f/f retelling of The Snow Queen, The Raven and the Reindeer, and since reading it I’ve seen nothing but good things about her Beauty and the Beast retelling, so naturally I went ahead and bought a copy. To be honest, I’m down for any retelling of this fairy tale that describes its heroine as “armed with only her gardening shears and her wits” – what’s not to love? I love the idea of a fairy tale with roses at its centre having a gardener for a heroine, that’s not something I’ve come across yet in the retellings I’ve seen, and if I enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed The Raven and the Reindeer then I’m going to have a great time.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
This new YA fantasy has been making the rounds recently, and it seems to be something of a marmite book. Unlike the other books here, A Curse So Dark and Lonely is partially set in the real world and features a heroine who is sucked into a fantasy world where the beast figure resides. She’s a heroine who also just happens to have cerebral palsy and I’ve never before read a book where the MC had cerebral palsy, which is ridiculous when I consider how many years of my life I’ve spent reading.
If I’m being completely honest with myself, this isn’t the kind of book I would have picked up if I saw it in a bookshop. I’m not actually the biggest fan of portal fantasy novels – characters always seem to be fine with being sucked away from their normal lives far too quickly, and I just don’t like it – but I received this book in a Fairyloot box and I loved what Kemmerer had to say about wanting to explore what the impact the prince’s curse would have on his kingdom. I’ve seen a few reviewers talk about how this is a novel where the heroine falls in love with the kingdom rather than the prince, and I’m down for that.
Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
Marillier is another author I read for the first time this year when I also read and loved another retelling of hers, Daughter of the Forest, so when I learned she’d written a standalone retelling of Beauty and the Beast I knew I had to have it. Thankfully the audiobook is available on Scribd, so once I’ve finished my current audiobook I think this is the one I’m going to turn to.
Marillier’s writing is stunning and I have every faith she’s written another beautiful retelling here. I believe the heroine in this retelling is a scribe and I love fantasy and historical fiction books that feature scribes and old manuscripts, especially if women are involved and it’s not a complete sausage-fest. I also happen to know that Marillier excels at writing a slow-burn romance, so I’m hopeful that’s what I’m going to get here.
In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
Unlike the rest of the retellings here, In the Vanishers’ Palace is an f/f retelling and you all know how I’m aiming to read way more f/f fantasy this year. It’s based on Vietnamese folklore and includes a beast figure who is a dragon while our beauty is a human woman who finds herself teaching the dragon’s children in this post-apocalyptic world. It sounds bonkers but also like nothing I’ve ever read before, and Aliette de Bodard is an author I keep meaning to check out. This is another one I’ve found on Scribd as an audiobook and as an ebook so, depending on what mood I’m in, I have options as to how I read it when I do get to it!