Book Review: Monstrous Beauty – Marie Brennan

Release Date: 28th October 2014
Publisher: Book View Cafe
Pages: 40.
Find It On: Goodreads. Amazon.


Seven retellings of well-known fairy tales, but with a dark and sinister twist…

Marie Brennan has taken some of the most well known fairy tales – Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and several others, and completely turned them on their head:

“Cut out her heart and bring it to me” the queen said, and so the huntsman did.

Now in the cold darkness of the wood, the princess’ mutilated body lies waiting for the wolves. The stench of putrefaction draws scavengers of all kinds. Ants devour the flesh of her lips; birds steal strands of her dark hair;  her pale skin grows sickly and bloated. Ravens peck out her dull. dead eyes.
But others find her before the wolves…’

These are not the Disney versions you know and these dark, spine tingling versions are a perfect read this winter!

I absolutely love fairy tale retellings, I find it so fascinating the many different versions and adaptations that can arise from one single story. I received Monstrous Beauty through a LibraryThing give away and devoured it in a single sitting. Huddled under a blanket with a storm blowing outside, it particularly heightened the dark, sinister qualities of Brennan’s stories.

Each tale is beautifully written, in a flowing poetic tone. I haven’t previously read any of the author’s other work, but discovering at the end that Marie Brennan writes fantasy novels, I am very much looking forward to reading more of her work. The stories are short ones and all follow a similar theme – namely that of the monstrous feminine. The princesses, the sweet innocent characters you know from previous adaptations, are not all that they seem. I studied the theory of the monstrous feminine at University and I really enjoyed Brennan’s use of it here. It was particularly hard to pick my favourite of the set, they are all clever and enjoyable but I particularly enjoyed the Rapunzel adaptation entitled Tower in the Moonlight, and the Beauty and the Beast adaptation – Waiting for Beauty. Waiting for Beauty particularly intrigued me, as it made me feel a deep amount of sympathy for the beast – something you would not always expect with other adaptations.

I also really liked the additional notes on each of the stories, it was particularly interesting to discover how the stories came to be. Again mentioning Tower in the Moonlight, I thought it really fascinating that Brennan came up with this from a memory of static hair having a life of its own in childhood.

I also really love the cover! It’s very eerie looking and adds to that tone of supernatural horror. Monstrous Beauty is a great little read if you’re hiding from this horrible winter weather – but be warned it might leave a chill down your spine!

Looking for something similar? Try: Tear You Apart or Thicker than Blood.

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