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ISBN 0689835892 / 9780689835896 / 0-689-83589-2
› Find signed collectible books: 'Beast'
In a narrative as glittering and richly detailed as a Persian miniature, Donna Jo Napoli interprets and amplifies the tale of Beauty and the Beast with startling originality. We've seen her keen psychological insights, surprising viewpoints, and clever twists on traditional fairy tales in previous novels: Hansel and Gretel in The Magic Circle, Rapunzel in Zel, Jack and the Beanstalk in Crazy Jack, and Rumpelstiltskin in Spinners. Here she uses the intriguing setting of ancient Persia in a glorious retelling of the now-Disneyfied favorite--a bold undertaking with which authors from Robin McKinley to Francesca Lia Block have also challenged themselves.
Napoli, however, brings a fresh slant to the story through the eyes of the Beast, Prince Orasmyn, who has been transformed by a curse into a lion--and can only be redeemed by the love of a woman. From this four-footed perspective, the young prince struggles to learn how to survive as a beast while retaining his humanity in devotion to Islamic moral principles. Fleeing his father's hunting park, he travels as an animal across Asia to France, where he at last finds an abandoned chateau. There, using paws and jaws, he plants a rose garden and prepares the castle for the woman he hopes will come to love him. Enter the merchant, the plucked rose, the brave Beauty, and the story wends to its traditional end--but this time with compassion and a new vividness. Into this sumptuous tapestry Napoli has woven a wealth of lore about Persian literature, the tenets of Islam, rose culture, animal behavior--even a leonine mating scene. This level of detail makes for a leisurely pace and a novel that may be more appropriate for older teens who are willing to savor the journey rather than the destination. After all, we all know how the story ends. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell [via]