Marshmallow has reviewed several books by Soman Chainani already. Most recently she reviewed Rise of the School for Good and Evil and School for Good and Evil. Today, for her last review of this school year before the bunnies take off for the month of July, she decided to talk about Chainani’s Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about/with magic, monsters, and strong female characters, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Twelve tales that we thought we knew have been reinvented (Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, Rumpelstiltskin, and Peter Pan). I would summarize all of them but instead I’ll just go over my favorites.
Red Riding Hood: Every year the most beautiful girl in the town is eaten by wolves. The villagers surrender the girl, sending her into the woods, down a road alone, until she meets her fate. Our heroine, who isn’t ever named, was chosen by the wolves. She wears a red cape as she walks into the forest, intent on being the first to survive.
Snow White: A queen asks a mirror for its opinion on the fairest of all. The queen is satisfied by its answer, until it starts to name the queen’s stepdaughter. The queen’s stepdaughter has crow-black skin, blood-red lips, and eyes with whites as bright as snow. The queen doesn’t believe people like that can be fair and orders a huntsman to kill her. But Snow White is harder to kill than expected.
Beauty and the Beast: A book-loving girl dotes on her rich father. Everyone believes this to be virtue, but in truth, she has plans for her life, bigger than just being a maid/cook/servant. When her father loses his money, and rides out to try to get it back, he is forced to promise to send his daughter to a Beast. The Beast wants love, but the girl has no intentions of befriending the Beast; she wants to kill him.
The Little Mermaid: A beautiful mermaid is in love with a human. She will do anything for him, despite the fact that they’ve never talked before. In fact, she only saw him once when she saved him from drowning. She wants a sea witch to turn her into a human, so she can be with him, but it turns out that stories always have two sides, and the side you’re on makes the biggest difference.
Marshmallow’s Review: I found Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales a really good book to read, given certain events going on in human politics. Like in his School for Good and Evil series, Soman Chainani takes fairy tales that we all know and digs deeper. Not only does he change certain thing like places, ethnicities, genders, etc., but he adds an extra layer of meaning. Some of the stories take place in non-descript villages and kingdoms. The time period is that of your average fairy tale. But there is a lot that is different.
For example, Cinderella becomes more than a girl wanting to go to a ball; her story, Cinderella, shows different people struggling to find their happy ending only to find that it wasn’t all it was cooked up to be. Hansel and Gretel isn’t just about two children killing a witch: Hansel and Gretel discover that the witch they’re supposed to kill isn’t the one in the candied house. All the twists are unexpected and fresh, and all together make for really good reading.
That said, some of these tales can be a bit disturbing to younger bunnies—I found the retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story a little scary for example—so I would definitely say that Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales is more for 14-15 and above. Certain stories, mostly Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard, could be confusing or even disturbing to younger children. In fact, I didn’t quite understand the full meaning of the two fore-mentioned stories the first time I read them. I would say that this would be a good book for both older children and parents to read and then discuss about, especially with the messages in the book.
Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.