Beauty – Sarah Pinborough [Books]

beauty

Tales From The Kingdoms Reviews: Poison Charm

If you previously read my reviews for Poison and Charm, you might notice I actually read the three books in this series quite close together. Almost as soon as I finished Poison, I ordered the next two, mainly because I was instantly gripped with the urge to read more.

Beauty is the final installment in the series, and it’s ended up being my favourite of the three. I do however have a complaint now I’ve read all three: I really, really want more.

In these books, Pinborough has not only given us fantastic retellings of traditional fairy tales, but created a new fantasy world for these people to inhabit. The novels read like they could almost be companions to Once Upon A Time, and it works really bloody well.

Beauty focuses on the prince we originally met in Poison, and revisited in Charm. In both previous books, there is mention of an adventure he took, though it remains clouded in mystery. The reader might get some hint and clue about said adventure, and work out it possibly involved Sleeping Beauty herself, but it’s never clear. This book explores that adventure, when the prince and huntsman set out looking for a forgotten kingdom, and both gain more than they expected.

As with the first two books, we meet familiar fairy tale characters who come with a bit of a twist. Little Red Riding Hood lives with her grandma, in a cottage surrounded by wild wolves, and is drawn to the strange thorny wall near their home. From the other side comes a howl that speaks to something deep within her.

We discover more about the huntsman, and his life prior to travelling with the prince. The character of the prince is deepened, and to a point, he becomes that bit more sympathetic. Though his actions in Poison are inexcusable, Beauty offers good reasons why he acted like he did.

And as for the title character herself…

The whole plot revolves around her and her history, the union between her parents, the love everyone in the kingdom has for her. And like with other characters, Pinborough does something wonderfully clever with the beloved princess. Even Rumpelstiltskin appears, as an advisor to the former king, and the man who betrayed Beauty.

Pinborough beautifully weaves these different stories together, giving the reader plenty of twists to truly shock them. Even though we sort of know what happens to the prince and huntsman, the writing is engaging enough the how and why become so much more important.

This is a series easy to read and sink into, and proved a perfect escape for the current strange times. Beauty, for me, was really the strongest of the three, and a fantastic ending to the trilogy. As I said at the beginning, however, I just wish there were more of these to enjoy.

Charm – Sarah Pinborough [Book Review]

charmAs soon as I finished Sarah Pinborough’s PoisonI knew I needed the next two books in the series in my life as soon as possible. I am a complete sucker for fairy tale retellings, and although the first book wasn’t amazing enough to blow my mind (I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads), it got me invested in this world enough I wanted more.

Charm is a retelling of Cinderella, and in it we find the usual trappings of the familiar tale; there’s Cinders nasty step-mother and her two ugly (though more plain here) stepsisters, a handsome prince, Buttons the servant, and a mouse. As with Poison though, the beauty lies in the finer details and how, exactly, Pinborough twists the tale.

In this, Cinderella isn’t just a sweet, downtrodden girl. Her father is alive, and her stepmother isn’t necessarily abusive towards Cinders, but more neglectful, focusing on her daughters and trying to enable them to have the sort of life she gave up. One of the sisters is already married by the time the story starts, to an Earl, and through them the stepmother and remaining sister get invitations to the balls held at the castle.

This book is a continuation of the first one, so spoilers following for Poison.

In the Snow White retelling, Snow married the prince, but between the wedding and their happily ever after, he used the piece of apple – ground up into her drink – to poison her again, and make her the beautiful, silent wife he had originally wished for.

Many of the elements laid out in Poison are returned to here. The mouse has a familiar-to-readers scar, which gives some very er, entertaining if creepy moments when Cinderella interacts with the mouse. We see the return of the queen, and discover Cinderella’s beloved prince is hiding a dark secret of some sort.

I really like the way Pinborough plays with the characters, how the women involved have more agency, and the focus really is more on them than the prince sweeping in to save the day. We see an actual relationship between Cinderella and her sister, we delve more into her stepmother’s past, and we get a more solid understanding behind the motivations of the characters.

‘Evil’ characters become more sympathetic, and ‘good’ characters are shown to have shades of grey, instead of existing purely as wonderful beacons of light. Cinderella herself is a selfish child, so desperate to leave her family she ignores what is right in front of her.

As with Poison, Pinborough presents the original fairy tale with intriguing twists and added elements, creating a whole new fantasy world with effective worldbuilding and morally grey characters, rather than the pure good vs evil we’re used to in these stories. It makes for an intriguing, entertaining read, and I can’t wait to get started on Beauty, the final book of the series.