Books To Take You Away From It All

Tag Archives: beauty and the beast

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is dark and mysterious.  Calia Thorn lives a miserable existence in a small town at the foot of the Cold King’s mountain. She spends her days taking care of her younger siblings, doing endless hours of chores and trying fruitlessly to please her mean and lazy mother. But when the townspeople choose her to be the newest servant for the Cold King, she suddenly is afraid that she will be going from bad to worse. The Cold King has lived under a curse for over 300 years and is rumored to be an evil, unfeeling monster. Can Calia see beneath the mask and find the true man? Or will she be doomed to a life of servitude forever?

Sissy: I know what you’re thinking. “You’re reviewing another retelling of Beauty and the Beast?” The answer is a succinct YES! and get over it. This blog is not a democracy. It is a benevolent dictatorship!

Bubby: Um. Who, exactly, is the dictator here? I believe there can only be one dictator in a particular regime at a time and everyone else is a minion. . .

Sissy: You are, of course, Bubby! I however am not a peon, but the Dowager Empress. Which means I get all the prizes and none of the responsibility. Give me a pony!

Bubby: Really I wonder what people think when they read our mad ravings. We are actually very normal in real life, readers. Really. I swear. Now back to the story!

Sissy: What’s great about this book is all the horrible people. Calia’s mom is hideous, all the townspeople are despicable and even the Cold King is borderline demonic. It challenges your thoughts about the wrongness of ordering someone to come be your servant when in fact your life is much more comfortable and meaningful and happy in that forced environment.

Bubby: Yes, I found it interesting that all the servants of the Cold King – people who were pitied and despised in town – were actually very happy and pleased with their lot in life. In fact, when Calia “gets” to go home for a visit, it’s just horrible for her and she can’t wait to get back to the King. She thought that being chosen to serve the King would be the worst possible fate. Instead, it is rather wonderful. Hmmm. I wonder how this can be applied to real life? It’s kinda like going to the dentist – horrible in the anticipation but once it’s over and you have lovely clean healthy teeth instead of dentures, you are so happy!

Sissy: So profound, Bubby, I could almost call you Oprah and faint. What do you do with heinous loathsome people? Are they heinous and loathsome out of fear and tradition or are they just rotten to the core? There are some of both in this story. The fact that my visceral reaction to them was so strong and I wanted to go all ninja on them tells you that Amber Jaeger did some good characterization.

Bubby: I think that the Cold King falls into the first category. He’s been cursed and had people fear him for so long that he has forgotten how to act with common human decency and kindness. He’s not intrinsically evil, like the rotten brothers back in the town who abuse any woman they can get their hands on. He’s just out of practice.

Sissy: And in the case of the Cold King, it’s worth it to love him enough that he wants to change. In the case of the stinky town brothers, it’s probably wise to feed them strychnine-laced hush puppies and be done with it! We all have mean people in our lives. We just have to have the foresight to know whether to go with love or strychnine!

Bubby: That point right there is one of my big issues with this book. As much as I love a good romance and a redemption story, I don’t ever want my children to fall in love with someone thinking that love is going to change them into someone nice and wonderful. It can work, but more often it’s a disaster. As Dr. Laura used to say, “A damsel in distress is only ever going to be a distressed damsel.” I also had a hard time with the casually cruel nature of the Cold King. I’m not sure I could ever love someone who locked me in a dungeon “for my own good” or believed that I had inflicted grievous injuries on myself in order to find out my beloved’s secrets. If I come home all beaten to a pulp and I tell my husband that so-and-so did it, he’d better believe me and go whup up on somebody!

Sissy: True on all counts, Bubby. But what is the likelihood of one of your children being forced into servitude by a magically cursed king? If they ever are, it would probably behoove them to get into his good graces, be crowned queen and send me fabulous and lavish gifts. If they fall for a real life person who is casually cruel but sometimes kind, who seems to have emotional and mental disorders, they should be shipped off to boarding school immediately!

Bubby: Correct as usual, Queen Friday. All in all, The Cold King by Amber Jaeger was an interesting and entertaining read with good characters, a lavish setting and a happy ending. Good enough for me! 3 2/3 bubbles.

Sissy: I suppose you can have 2/3 of a bubble if you’re the dictator. I enjoyed this somewhat gritty retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and recommend that you all take a look.  3.5 bubbles from the dowager empress who is in her corner castle suite doing nothing important or responsible.

Click HERE to buy The Cold King by Amber Jaeger from Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2013


This is a retelling of the beloved fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. In this enchanting version, Beauty hates her nickname (her real name is Honour) because she feels that she is the least beautiful of her father’s three daughters. Instead, she values her intelligence and  her love of learning and riding. Her merchant father’s financial failure causes the family to auction off their belongings and move to the country where Beauty is grateful for her practical skills. When her father comes home with a tale of an enchanted castle and an angry beast, Beauty agrees to go to the castle to spare her father’s life and eventually learns to love the beast.

Sissy: This was the first book Robin McKinley ever wrote,and when I read it, I loved it. It came out long before the Disney movie version of Beauty and the Beast or the plethora of fairytale retellings that have come about in the last 20 years. So at the time it was a refreshing and novel idea. I like the concept of Beauty as a gangly, awkward girl who is more interested in horses and books than boys or embroidery. I know that the Disney version has Beauty’s character being more bookish, but Robin McKinley had the idea first. I also like the fact that in this retelling the characters in Beauty’s family are fleshed out a little bit and have their own side stories going on.
Bubby: Good pick this week, Sissy! I love Robin McKinley’s early books. (Her later books, not so much.) Beauty is actually the first of two retellings of the classic story that McKinley has written – the other is Rose Daughter, published almost 20 years later and a good read in its own right. McKinley has a way with words. It’s almost as if she spins a web around the reader, drawing them right into the world she is creating. You really feel that you are experiencing the story right along with Beauty and her sisters Hope and Grace. The characters are so well drawn that you really care what happens to them – they are imperfect and human and they could be your friend or neighbor or sister.
Sissy: I like all of Robin McKinley’s solo authored books except Sunshine.
Bubby: Sunshine. Yuck. Everything you already hated about vampires minus all of McKinley’s signature elegant prose plus some language and sex. Stick with the older stuff. It’s better.
Sissy: Yes. Robin McKinley writes so beautifully. She must have been going through a dark period when she wrote that book. I will forgive her. Back to Beauty. You all know what happens at the end of the story and so what makes this book readable is the characters and the imaginings of the author as she reinvents the circumstances surrounding the familiar ending.
Bubby: I want to be one of Beauty’s sisters – before their father’s business failed, it was all silk and roses and silver lah-di-dah poshness. I could get used to that. Sitting near the fireplace, eating crumpets with clotted cream and black currant preserves, drinking tea from my silver teapot in my china cup with my pinkie finger in the air. Delightful! Of course, after a few weeks, I’d probably be bored spitless. And then I’d have a heart attack from too much clotted cream. But I’d enjoy myself in the beginning! You can have tea with me, Sissy. I’ll get you your own china teacup painted with pink roses.
Sissy: I hate tea. Tastes like fish spit. I believe I have mentioned this before.
Bubby: Fine. No tea. Hot cocoa. In a pretty, rose embellished cup. That’s the important part.
Sissy: Since when did you become the little old lady with pink roses all over the place? Are you going to start knitting an afghan next?
Bubby: Hey, knitting is hot and chic nowadays – all the famous Hollywood actresses are doing it.
Sissy: Right. Our main character, Beauty, was so not into all that crap. Now that we’ve distracted you hither and yon, find a copy of Beauty by Robin McKinley and go back to the lovely days before everyone and their dog was making a buck with a retelling. 3 1/2 bubbles.
Bubby: Wow. You have lost your magic today, Sissy. Methinks someone needs a new tube of hemorrhoid cream. At any rate, Beauty is a delicious magical tale. You will love it. 4 bubbles from me. Happy weekend!
Click HERE to buy Beauty by Robin McKinley from Amazon.com
Click HERE to buy Beauty by Robin McKinley from BookDepository.com
© Bubble Bath Books 2013