Flashback reviews are where I review an older book that I've reread recently.
"Beauty" and "Rose Daughter," by Robin McKinley.
The other day I was in one of those reading moods where only a well-beloved reread would hit the spot. So I curled up with Robin McKinley’s “Rose Daughter,” since it had been a while since I last read it. And when I finished it, I immediately felt this need to read “Beauty” by the same author as well. So I did. If you haven’t read these two books (shame on you), they’re both retellings of Beauty and the Beast. You may think it’s impossible for an author to write two separate books based on the same fairytale and pull it off, but Robin McKinley not only does it, she does it perfectly.
I don’t think I’ve ever read “Beauty” and “Rose Daughter” back to back before, so when I did it this time, I compared them a little more than I usually do. Of course they both have the same basic storyline: a merchant family, with a father and three daughters, falls on hard times and moves to the countryside. As they finally sort out their new life, the father gets called back to the city, but when he returns he gets lost in a snowstorm and stumbles on the Beast’s enchanted castle. The father takes a rose, which infuriates the Beast, and the Beast demands that the father send his daughter Beauty as recompense. Beauty agrees to go and, well, I bet you can guess what happens after that (hint—it ends with a happily ever after).
The thing is, for both being based on the same fairytale, the two books are completely different. The two Beauties, while at their core are both honorable, brave, and kind, are different in execution. The Beauty in “Beauty” is a plain, anti-social, horse-loving scholar, while the Beauty in “Rose Daughter” is a beautiful peacemaker who loves to garden. The two Beasts are different too, with the Beast in “Beauty” being a bit more communicative and present, while the Beast in “Rose Daughter” is more elusive and solitary but no less intriguing and, well, swoonworthy.
But beyond the characters, the details of the two stories are wildly different. “Beauty” is a simpler, more straightforward story, while “Rose Daughter” is longer and much more complex. While “Beauty” focuses on Beauty’s developing relationship with the Beast, “Rose Daughter” is centered slightly less on that than on Beauty’s determination to save the Beast’s dying roses and bring life back to the castle. I could go on and on about how else the two stories are different, but I won’t—I’ll leave that discovery to you.
Both these books are completely wonderful, and I really can’t say that I prefer one over the other. Each one is lovely in its own way, and neither fades in comparison to the other. I recommend both of them, along with everything else ever written by Robin McKinley.
Rating: Both 5/5, obviously