Friday, November 15, 2013

A Worthy Retelling of "Beauty and the Beast"

Roses by G.R. Mannering (Sky Pony Press, 2013, 320pp.)

In Wicked, Gregory Maguire reinvented the land of Oz and completely changed the way we look at the Wicked Witch of the West. In G.R. Mannering’s Roses, the oft-retold fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” gets a similar modern fantasy treatment. Taking place in the fictional land of Sago, Roses documents the life of Beauty, a strange, silvery-skinned girl with amethyst-colored eyes who lives a miserable existence with her cruel Aunt Dane. Left on her aunt’s doorstep by her mother years earlier, Aunt Dane considers Beauty a freak and a burden—clearly someone of Magic Blood, considering her appearance. The only person who seems to care about Beauty’s well-being at all is the kindly Owaine, the head of the House’s stables. When a genocide targeting Magic Bloods begins to sweep throughout the land, Owaine leads Beauty from the dangerous cities to the rural Hillands, where life continues to be difficult. Her appearance continues to inspire fear and disgust, and Owaine’s daughter considers her to be competition for her father’s affections. When Owaine is cursed by a mysterious beast for stealing a rose from his enchanted garden, Beauty quickly offers her own life to save his. Meanwhile, enemies from the past threaten the Hillands and everything she loves.

So, what makes Roses different from other retellings? The world-building details, for one. For another, the unusual decision to make Beauty not so much a “Beauty” but a strange half-Fae hybrid adds a different element to the story that you don’t see in other versions. The Beast, on the other hand, is not nearly as interesting as he could be. He is, more or less, a beastly creature who lives in a castle, and quickly comes to fall in love with the heroine. Their interactions and courtship are to be as expected, and the ending is somewhat rushed. Overall, though, Roses is a worthy retelling, full of imagination and with plenty of potential for future sequels. Recommended for Ages 16-18.