I found Belle to be a pretty original, if somewhat lacking in parts, retelling of the traditional Beauty and the Beast story – but then again I’ve not read Beauty by Robin McKinley. Despite this, there were parts of the book that I really liked and parts that I really didn’t. it seemed that the entire novel was based on the premise of one step forward but two steps back.
It was so close yet so far!
Belle was actually very well written and was full of likeable characters and believable family relationships (except for the Beast and I’ll get to that later) but the whole thing just took too long, and for a very short book that’s not a good thing. About 75% of the story was focused on Belle and her family life. This would be fine if the book was longer, but it’s just agonising to read, flicking closer to the end page by page and thinking ‘ok, so when will the plot move forward?’. I know the book is called Belle but it takes forever to get to the Beast. Honestly, at times I think that Dokey forgot that this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
“Two different experiences, grief and joy, combined.”
There was also a lack of description surrounding the magic and enchantment in the story, although the inclusion of the legend of the Heartwood Tree was a nice touch. The whole ‘5 second rule’ (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read it) was never fully explained and it seemed like a half-thought out idea. Why could Belle not do it and then suddenly she could?
Unfortunately this wasn’t the only part of the story that felt a little lost and not sure of itself, but as it’s such a short book I can’t really disclose much more without giving spoilers away.
One thing that got very boring very quickly was Belle’s obsession with prettiness and beauty. It got so…needy and cringe worthy at times. I found myself rolling my eyes at her at one point and asking her to change the bloody record.
Regrettably the ending was incredibly rushed and so was almost every scene with the Beast (see, I told you we’d come here). Dokey spent a lot of time carefully crafting the relationships between Belle and each of her family members and it was so believable, yet when she finally gets to the Beast, it’s moved along at the speed of a page or two! Their relationship was the only unbelievable one in the entire story and it’s a shame because it’s the only one that really matters when all is said and done.
“True love never has just one face, does it?”
It’s not all bad news though, although the Beast scenes were rushed, they did yield some truly beautiful moments such as the boat scene which was gently romantic without ever being cliché. There were also some genuine moments of humour scattered throughout the pages.
This is a shorter review than I usually write but Belle is a much shorter book than I’m used to reading and it didn’t have the content to warrant a longer review.
All in all, Belle was a short, easy read that I honestly think is much better suited as a children’s story than YA but still made for a very pleasant read.
I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys retellings of well-known tales.
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.