Beauty is the retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, all the elements are here, the impenetrable forest, the cursed princess, the handsome prince. This final story in Sarah Pinborough’s trilogy of fairy tale retellings closes the circle started in Poison, but whilst being the last book released, chronologically it is the first story in the sequence. I’d long suspected – after events and comments made by two characters in Poison – that this trilogy would follow along the same non-linear lines as the film Sin City. This disjointed way of telling the story has built over the previous two books making this first story a brilliant ending.
From the title it’s easy to assume what this book is all about. Already we’ve had Snow White in Poison and Cinderella in Charm, so going into this I was expecting the trademark slantways take that Sarah has given us many time before, but this time focused on the Sleeping Beauty story. Whilst this is mainly what we get – in a roundabout way – we also get a lot more. I did think everything and the kitchen sink once I’d finished, counting at least three separate fairy tales blended into the mix, and possible nod’s to more. It’s a nice piece of plotting pulling all these threads into one story and not making it looked crowded. But as well as telling this story Sarah had to also tie off loose ends carried over from the previous two. I’ve read some full novels where too many threads have made the story bloated and incoherent, but Sarah has managed this with some sparkling prose and a cracking pace.
Sometimes novellas can be a little like a Chinese takeaway, a quick meal and soon after you are feeling hungry again. But here Sarah has managed to make a novella that feels like a full novel, you get given a full blown world full of character’s all of which are fully formed and three dimensional, and whilst they may feel familiar, they all have uniqueness to them that sets them apart from what may be the accepted image of the characters. Here you also get very much the view that the separate kingdoms already visited in the previous two books are very tightly linked together. Whilst the cast comes from different parts, they have a common past, one that brings them together whether they wanted to or not.
As with the previous two stories this is very much a Sarah Pinborough book, full of devious twists on character traits and healthy dollops of sexual tension. Whilst not as blazingly sexy as the previous two – though there is a pretty wild party – this time there is more underlying tension, a hint that at any moment bodices will be ripped and breaches dropped to the floor. As a standalone this would work on many levels, added to the whole it makes a perfect episode in the overall story arc.