Books Reviewed

Book Review: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani

Book Review: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman ChainaniBeasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani
Published by HarperCollins on 21 September 2021
Genres: MG Retellings & Fairy Tales, YA Retellings & Fairy Tales
Pages: 336
Format: ARC eBook
Source: Edelweiss+

You think you know these stories, don’t you?
You are wrong.
You don’t know them at all.
Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that free hearts long kept tame, truths that explore life . . . and death.
A prince has a surprising awakening . . ..
A beauty fights like a beast . . .
A boy refuses to become prey . . .
A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again.
New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare. 

my review

I received an eARC from Edelweiss Plus through my job. All opinions are my own.

When I first picked up Beasts and Beauty I don’t think I quite knew what to expect from the book. I could tell from the table of contents that it was fairy tales, but I didn’t read the synopsis at first. So when I delved into these stories I was surprised to find some darker, but also refreshing twists to the well-known fairy tales.

Each story Chainani chose had familiar elements, but also harsher elements. With that said, I felt like every story was redefining who had the real “power” and what a “happily-ever-after” really meant or could look like–especially in comparison to the “Disney-fied” tales we’re used to. I really enjoyed this twist in the “lessons” or outcomes of the fairy tales. I loved seeing the feminist themes and the diversity in the characters. I loved seeing a sense of “justice” or maybe even revenge being served to certain characters. That may just be the darker side of me though lol.

Some of my favorite tales retold were “Sleeping Beauty,” “Hansel & Gretel,” & “Jack in the Beanstalk.” I’m not sure if I loved “Peter Pan” or not, but it definitely left an emotional impression on me as did “Beauty & the Beast.”

While these stories had endings that made sense to the retellings, not every ending was necessarily what we’d consider a “happily-ever-after.” The endings of these tales felt more like reality in what would really happen if the characters made the choices they made in each story. Not everyone got a happy ending, but they all got a relatively realistic one. This darker, more realistic nature of the stories made me unsure if I’d pick this collection back up again or not. While I did enjoy reading Beasts and Beauty, I’m not sure it was the escape I usually look for when I turn to novels. Usually I want to escape the harshness of reality when I jumped into a good novel and while this did offer escapism, the darker endings weren’t always the uplifting ones I needed right now. Still, I wouldn’t say I’d never re-pick this up. I just think my mindset just needs happy right now, if that makes sense?

Anyway, all of this is to say, yes, I’d definitely recommend Beasts and Beauty to readers, especially those who love retellings and fairy tales. I think even if you’re not a fan of grim stories, these offer such unique perspectives and twists to the original tales as to be worth the read for sure.

I do have to pause and say that these tales included violence, murder and some predatory elements. So if any of that is a trigger for you, you may want to skip this particular collection. Also, this may influence what age you recommend this book to. It’s listed as Middle Grade, I believe, but I’m not sure I’d be handing it over to a 9 or 10-year-old. Still, it’s really up to whatever the reader is able to handle in terms of content.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Beasts and Beauty and found it interesting, entertaining and reflective. I often found myself pausing between stories to reflect on what I just read and what the stories were trying to leave the reader with/what I took away from each tale. In the end, I thought each story at it’s heart was about being able to control your own path or fate–that you have the power in yourself to change your destiny. In the end, I found that hopeful, inspiring and uplifting even if the stories didn’t always seem so at face-value.

Have you read Beasts and Beauty? What was your favorite tale? What did you think about this collection? Do you have any other retellings or fairy tale recommendations? I’d love to hear!

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