The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince by Serena Valentino

Monday, April 03, 2017
The Beast Within book review
In the right hands, Disney villains can be a fascinating source of storytelling for so-called bad guys. Fans can learn more about antagonists on a deeper level that's often lacking in the animated movies. While I wouldn’t consider the Beast / Prince from Beauty and the Beast a villain per say, an intriguing potential backstory can be explored about his value towards superficiality versus true inner beauty.

The Beast Within changes quite a lot about what we know of Disney’s the Prince. For one, he’s great friends with Gaston. Hunting animals and looking down on others, especially women who don't meet their standards, is primarily what they have in common. When the Prince falls in love with a woman who is beautiful, but nothing more than a farm girl, it’s just about the worst thing that could happen. But not in the way he assumes. After a humiliating breakup, she and her sisters reveal themselves to be Enchantresses. Out for revenge, they place a curse on him by turning him into a Beast. He can only break the spell by falling in love, receiving love in return, and the union must be sealed with a kiss before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls.

Something fans don’t quite get in the original movie, and only teased in the recent remake, is what a genuine cad the Prince must’ve been to be turned into a monster. Author Serena Valentino has a competent grasp on what makes him ugly on the inside and outside by focusing on his limited attitude towards women and his material needs. His blatant selfishness and lack of compassion is quite overbearing and exudes off the page. You manage to dislike him but also recognize his fears as he's physically morphing from a human into a beast. At times, he's not necessarily likable, but from the nature of the story and his fate, gives him room to change his ways.

By fleshing out The Prince, the story starts out admirably. But beyond fleshing out The Prince's ego, The Beast Within feels very limited in taking an interesting start and turning into a compelling journey.

Valentino's version ultimately becomes is a little too mixed up in plugging in staple scenes from the original movie while tapping into different backstories that seem cool but aren't well-rounded. Her additions to the story like his friendship with Gaston is a creative place to drawn on as to why the Prince might act the egotistical and conceited, but the story backs from fully committing to the idea. Even romantic relationships with a woman who turns out to be a witch, and another socialite whom Beast prematurely uses to outsmart the curse with, offer interesting twists to female characters other than Belle. But then their unique motivations wear off to reveal the writing and construction is very basic. And, the iconic heroine herself Belle is ultimately used as a bookend and doesn't hold any significant bearing or involvement in Beast recognizing how to be a kind, compassionate human.

Sometimes villains can't be redeemed by their corrupted ways, but for a character who has that room for growth, it's disappointing when re-tellings don't capitalize on exploring the full spectrum. Unfortunately, the story and book are just too small, only a quick 200+ pages with fairly short chapters. If the length and size of the book were bigger, or the author worked with a wider scope, the story had potential to be more detailed. How the Prince acts like a monster is just as important as to the Prince recognizing the error of his ways. The book never aims to accomplish both.
Rating:★☆☆

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