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Beauty by Sarah Pinborough

It’s that MadNad person again. This time she is casting her beady eye over Sarah Pinborough’s latest.

Beauty is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the ancient curse, the sleeping girl and, of course, the haunting castle) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. It’s fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more

I had been eagerly awaiting the final part in Sarah Pinborough’s fairy tale trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed Poison and Charm, so I was confidant I would enjoy Beauty. I was wrong. I loved it! Probably my favourite of all three, Beauty wraps up, or more accurately, closes the story loop as chronologically the events here happen prior to Poison.

The Huntsman is one of the central characters in this piece which cleverly ties it to the other two parts. Other characters from other stories are interwoven, but this character particularly seems significant in all three parts. An ever-present Prince, and a red-cloaked maiden complete the lead ensemble.

Beauty is loosely based on the sleeping beauty story, but as with the other two books, Pinborough has artfully woven in other fairy tales, making this a story that is familiar yet new and exciting. She strips away the cloying shine and polish that Disney have added to these stories, and has given the characters more than one dimension. They are real people with moments of heroism and selfishness, with flaws and strengths, with ambitions and fears.

The Prince, who has not fared well previously, is once again shown for a vain and shallow creature. He is all that we despise in the privileged classes. That said, even he has moments of heroism but it’s his motives that are the true indicator of his weak character. The more earthy characters, such as the Huntsman or Petra (Red Ridinghood?) are much more genuine and therefore treated more gently by the author.

One of the resounding triumphs that has continued throughout the trilogy is that the women are not just the bitch or the princess, or the victim or the hero—but all of them. Each one is fully realised in the rainbow of characteristics that is to be found in all woman. Fantasy doesn’t have a good reputation for pulling off well-rounded female characters but Pinborough does it with flair.

Those that have read the previous books will be familiar with the underlying notes of sexuality and lust. While far from pornographic, the imagery in this story is certainly enough to bring colour to ones cheeks. Oh la la.

Some may see the story as a rather cynical view on love, but ultimately, I think it is actually an affirmation of true love, of what is important when one is seeking a loved one. I cannot imagine anyone not liking this dark fairy tale and recommend it to all. It is a delightfully wicked twist on the stories of old. I know she is a busy author, but I sincerely hope that Ms Pinborough decides to visit her magic kingdom again in the future, as there are many more stories I would love to see her re-imagine.

I can’t finish this review without a final comment about the cover and internal illustrations by Les Edwards. They are beautiful, and delightful, and throughout all three volumes, they add just the right amount of magic.


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