Book Review: The Beast Within by Serena Valentino (Spoilers!)
A cursed prince sits alone in a secluded castle. Few have seen him, but those who claim they have say his hair is wild and nails are sharp—like a beast’s! But how did this prince, once jovial and beloved by the people, come to be a reclusive and bitter monster? And is it possible that he can ever find true love and break the curse that has been placed upon him? — The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince
SPOILERS: This book review contains spoilers. If you have not read this book yet, I highly recommend you do not read this review, so you do not spoil your reading experience. However, please feel free to check out my other blog posts!
The beloved story of Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time and is best known for its amazing 1991 Disney animated film. It is definitely one of my favorite Disney movies because of its strong female character, unforgettable songs, and enchanting love story. When I first discovered Serena Valentino’s Villain’s Series, I was super intrigued. I’ve always been interested in learning about the backstories of the classic Disney Villains. The Beast Within is the first book that I’ve read in the series and it did not disappoint. This book tells the story of the Prince before he became the Beast. The Disney film is for the most part told from Belle’s point of view, so I was very interested to see the story through the Beast’s eyes.
Valentino Shows Us “The Beast Within”
The first thing I really liked about Valentino’s retelling was she showed us how awful of a person the Prince really was. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast reveals to us that the Prince was cursed for a being spoiled, selfish, and unkind, but we don’t find out too much more beyond that. In The Beast Within, we learn that the Prince had a huge ego, and loved to be worshipped by the people of his Kingdom. When it came to love and romance, he wasn’t your typical knight in shining armor.
“Our prince didn’t want anything to do with romantic poppycock. He wanted a different sort of life, and he learned early on he didn’t have to slay a fire-breathing beast to get a fair maiden to kiss him.”
With that being said, the prince treated women terribly and was disgustingly superficial and shallow. The Prince only was in search of beautiful women who were of royal blood. He preferred his woman silent, and who never had a thought of their own. More importantly, he didn’t care if a woman had personality because he didn’t want a wife who took attention away from him.
The Prince and Gaston’s Friendship
The biggest surprise that I came across while reading The Beast Within was that Gaston and the Prince were friends. Can you believe it?! I absolutely loved that plot twist considering the pair wanted to kill each other by the end of the story. It may seem hard to believe that the Beast and Gaston were once upon a time best buddies, but if you really think about it, it’s not all that shocking. Although they were not of the same status, the Prince and Gaston had similar personalities and always looked out for one another.
In fact, Gaston had warned the Prince that his Fiancé, Circe was the daughter of a pig farmer. He wanted to prevent his dear friend from “shaming himself” by marrying someone from a poor family. At first, the Prince didn’t believe him because he thought Gaston wanted Circe for himself. To prove to the Prince that he wasn’t lying, Gaston took him to the farmhouse of Circe’s family. The Prince saw a muddy Circe feeding pigs, which was where he humiliated her and said he wanted nothing more to do with her. Obviously, this showed that the Prince didn’t love Circe enough to begin with, if her status and appearance is all that mattered.
A New Take on the Curse
While reading The Beast Within, I tried to keep an open mind that the book may not stay true to the original Disney adaptation 100%. In the end, I found Valentino changed parts of the story, which was okay with me. For example, she had a different, yet interesting take on the Beast’s curse. When Circe was humiliated by the Prince, her three sisters, who were witches, came to her rescue. The witches didn’t like how the Prince treated their baby sister and wanted to make him pay. Since what comes around goes around, Circe and her sisters cursed the Prince. Circe explained the curse to the Prince as follows:
“As the rose petals fall, so shall the years pass until your twenty-first birthday. If you have not found love—true love, both given and received—by that day, and sealed with a kiss, then you shall remain the horrifying creature you’ll become.”
Now, what was even more interesting about the curse in this retelling was that the Prince’s beast transformation was not instant. Over the next few months after the witches cursed him, the Prince’s appearance changed slowly. At first, changes in his appearance were so slight that the Prince believed the curse was a joke.
During the transformation, the Prince became engaged to a princess named Tulip (yes, she was named after a flower) in hopes of breaking the curse – if there was one. As time went on, the Prince’s appeared to have aged at least twenty years. He blamed Tulip for his worsened appearance and accused her of being dishonest about her feelings for him. Obviously, he was the one being dishonest. The Prince believed that if Tulip really loved him that his transformation wouldn’t have progressed. Due to his false beliefs, the Prince kicked poor Tulip out of his Kingdom, which was the tip of the iceberg for him. From then on, the Prince’s features became more animal-like. Not long afterwards, he finally fully transformed into the beast Circe said he would become.
The Witches Are So Hatable
The three witches were both an important and interesting new addition to the story. They were so hatable, but in the best way possible. As horrible as the Prince was, I hated the witches even more. Probably because they taunted the Beast throughout the whole story and basically wanted him to fail in breaking the curse. To make sure the Beast failed, the witches tried to sabotage him. There evil schemes varied from sending wolves to attack Belle to using mind control to order Gaston to kill the Beast. Although the witches are not in the original Disney film, it’s believable that they could have been involved all along.
Belle Is a Small Character in This Retelling
Belle has to be my favorite character from Beauty and the Beast. I would say she’s my favorite Disney Princess as well. She’s kind, compassionate, smart, and brave. A perfect role model for young girls or anyone really. With that being said, I was a little disappointed she wasn’t a stronger character in this retelling. Unfortunately, Belle wasn’t present in majority of the story.
However, I thought it was funny that Belle attended the Prince’s ball. Originally, the Prince was intrigued by Belle when he first laid eyes on her. Gaston knew Belle from the village and she had no interest in him (because she’s one smart girl). Gaston spoke nonsense about Belle from afar, which convinced the Prince not to pursue her. In any event, I understand that this book is first and foremost about the Beast, but let’s remember that Belle is the one who changed the Beast for the better. Not only that, but she helped break the spell that cursed the Beast and his whole castle.
…And They Lived Happily Ever After
In the end, Circe lifted the curse when she discovered the Beast loved Belle and she loved him in return. The servants were human once again, and Belle and the Prince lived happily ever after.
Overall, I really enjoyed this retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I thought Valentino did a great job with telling the story from a new perspective. I like that she took a risk in changing the storyline from what we already know. Therefore, I give The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince, 4 out of 5 stars! After enjoying The Beast Within so much, I’m excited to read the rest of Valentino’s Disney Villains Series.
If you’ve read The Beast Within, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below. This is my first book review. If you have any suggestions for what I can improve on for my next one, feel free to leave those in the comments as well. Also, if you’d like to see what other books I’m reading these days, follow me on Goodreads!
I hope to see you in my next blog post!
DISCLAIMER: This post is not sponsored. All thoughts and opinions are my own.