A review of Sarah Pinborough's Beauty

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Sarah Pinborough's Beauty was published by Titan Books in May 2015. (This book was originally published in 2013.)

Information about Sarah Pinborough:

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed horror, thriller and YA author. In the UK she is published by both Gollancz and Jo Fletcher Books at Quercus and by Ace, Penguin and Titan in the US. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and she has a horror film Cracked currently in development and another original screenplay under option. She has recently branched out into television writing and has written for New Tricks on the BBC and has an original series in development with World Productions and ITV Global.

Sarah was the 2009 winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, and has three times been short-listed for Best Novel. She has also been short-listed for a World Fantasy Award. Her novella, The Language of Dying was short-listed for the Shirley Jackson Award and won the 2010 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.

Click here to visit the author's official website.

Information about Beauty:

An enticing contemporary retelling of the classic story of Sleeping Beauty. While the the handsome prince, the evil fairy, the beautiful girl and of course the spindle all appear, Sarah Pinborough’s charming and provocative spin on the story will captivate fans of the fairy tale all over again.

The third of three brand-new retellings of classic fairy tales by Sarah Pinborough.


Beauty is the third and final short novel in a trilogy of retellings of classic fairy tales by Sarah Pinborough. Just like its companion stories, Beauty is a fantastic and brilliantly written short novel for readers who love beautifully written dark fairy tales and who are fascinated by the darker side of speculative fiction. It's a stunning and decadent retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale with many surprises and twists.

Sarah Pinborough is an excellent storyteller. I have to admit that I'm honestly amazed at her extraordinary vision about classic fairy tales, because she uses bits and pieces of them to create something new, but stays true to them and their atmosphere. She doesn't repeat what other authors have already written about them, but boldly modernises the stories to make them look exciting, fresh and sexy so that they will appeal to modern readers. I can say that she has found a permanent place on my reading list because of this marvellous fairy tale trilogy.

I consider Poison, Charm and Beauty to be among the best and most original modern retellings of classic fairy tales ever written (you can probably notice by this review how much I love Beauty and its companion stories). I enjoyed reading them, because they differed from other retellings in terms of beautiful prose, good characterisation and imaginative plot twists. I'm sure that many readers will find them fascinating, because they're brilliantly told fairy tales. It's possible to say that these short novels are dream-come-true novels for those who read fairy tales and enjoy the darker side of speculative fiction.

This story is coated with enchanting darkness and terrifying beauty that is reminiscent of the original and unsanitised versions of the classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. It's a dark fairy tale with brutal and sexy scenes, but there are also heartbreaking scenes in it that create a nice and touching balance for the darker scenes.

Before I write more about Beauty and its contents, I think it's good to mention that Beauty is not a children's fairy tale. It's a dark, sexy and brutal fairy tale for adults. I'll also mention that Beauty is set before the events described in Poison and Charm. It sheds some light on a few things that were mentioned in these companion stories and lets readers understand them better.

Here's information about the story:

- The king and the queen talk about the prince. They think that the prince has been spoiled and needs to grow up, start a family of his own and gain more experience about many things, because he spends too much time being out all night at inns and sleeping late. They decide that he needs an adventure and the prince is told about a kingdom that has mysteriously disappeared. The king wants the prince to find it...

- The king's men want the huntsman to be a companion to the prince on his trip to the edge of the Far Mountain. Together, they travel towards the mountain and get to know one another...

- Petra is on her way to her grandmother's cottage, which is in the middle of the forest far away from the village. Her grandmother has problems with the wolves. Suddenly Petra and her grandmother meet the huntsman and the prince who help them. Petra joins the huntsman and the prince on their quest...

This is the beginning of an enchanting and gripping fairy tale for adults.

The author successfully blends elements from many fairy tales (Rumpelstitskin, Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty etc) and creates a story that will impress everyone who has ever read classic fairy tales and been enchanted by them and their darkness. I was personally very impressed by the infusion of Beauty and the Beast story into the Sleeping Beauty story, because it worked well and resulted in a stunning piece of dark fiction for adults.

When you begin to read this story, forget everything you thought you knew about the Sleeping Beauty, because this story reveals a whole new and macabre side of her. In Poison and Charm, Sarah Pinborough revealed what kind of persons Snow White and Cinderella truly are and now she does the same to Sleeping Beauty. Her vision of the Sleeping Beauty is simply amazing.

The author explores Beauty's life in a fascinating way. She writes about her childhood and what happened to her, because she has something in her blood that makes her different from other people. I won't reveal what kind of a person she is, but I'll mention that many readers will be fascinated and also terrified by what she is and what she does.

In this story, Sleeping Beauty is stripped of her gentleness and innocence, because she has a dark and brutal side to her, and she has different needs than normal people. Although Beauty is normally a kind person, her dark side is truly formidable and frightening. The author showcases her dark side with shocking explicitness. It was interesting for me to read about her brutal nature and what was needed to satisfy its lustful and murderous cravings.

It's great that the well-known elements - the spindle, enchanted sleep and the handsome prince - from the original fairy tale are present in this retelling. They add a nice touch of elegance to the story.

In my opinion, character interaction works perfectly in this short novel. I enjoyed reading about what happened between the prince and Beauty. It was also enjoyable to read about how Petra and her grandmother reacted to the prince and the huntsman when they arrived at the grandmother's cottage. Sarah Pinborough writes fluently about how the characters feel about one another and what happens between them.

The author wrote well about Petra and her grandmother's problems with the wolves. The wolves caused problems by eating goats and messing up places. This is an interesting take on Little Red Riding Hood, because it's something different.

There's a nice sense of mystery in this story, because the huntsman wonders about the castle and what happens there, because everything doesn't seem to make sense to him and he has an odd feeling about things. I won't write any spoilers about the happenings and plot twists, but I'll mention that readers are in for an intriguing and shocking surprise when they read about the castle and its secrets.

Sarah Pinborough's prose is beautiful. She writes fairy-tale-like prose that wonderfully brings out the different nuances of the story and highlights the happenings. When you begin to read this short novel, the author's well written prose and good story instantly transports you to a fairytale land where magic is real and all kinds of things are possible. The story is so absorbing that you can't help but like it.

It's great that the author writes fluently and boldly about sex and violence, because it adds realism and roughness to the story. I have to mention that it was interesting to read about how men and women easily tumbled into bed with each other to search comfort, because life in the forest was hard. It was also intriguing to read about the brutal scenes, because they were amazing.

Reading about the orgy of sex and violence that was displayed in full force was truly memorable for me. This sensual and vicious scene impressed me, because it was something that is seldom seen in fairy tales. I was surprised by its raw sexuality and brutality.

One of the best things about Beauty is that it is not a black and white vision of an old fairy tale, but has many shades of grey. It's a modern and vivid take on a beloved story that many readers know, and it contains many elements (it tells of love, loss, sacrifice and life in a fairytale land). Although it's a short novel, it has plenty of different flavours and nuances that add lots of depth and style to it (this is one of the reasons why I love this story so much, because I've always enjoyed reading stories that have depth and style in them).

Just like the previous Titan Books editions of Poison and Charm, this edition of Beauty is truly a work of art, because the covers of the hardcover edition look stunningly beautiful and gorgeous. It's great that Titan Books has published Poison, Charm and Beauty as beautifully crafted editions, because there are many readers who appreciate this kind of beautiful editions.

If you find yourself fascinated by Beauty and want to read more similar kind of fairy tale stories, please take a look at its companion short novels, Poison and Charm, because they're excellent stories that deserve to be read and praised. I highly recommend reading all of them, because they form a fascinating trilogy that's full of surprises and intriguing twists.

If you enjoy reading dark and beautifully written stories, Sarah Pinborough's Beauty is an excellent short novel for you. It offers good prose, originality and style in a beautiful package that will please many readers. It's one of the best fairy tale retellings ever, because it's a charmingly sexy and brilliantly brutal fairy tale for adult readers.

Highly recommended!