Review: BEAST by Donna Jo Napoli

TITLE: Beast
AUTHOR: Donna Jo Napoli
GENRE: Young Adult, Retold Fairytale, Fantasy
PUBLISHED: Simon Pulse (June 22, 2004)

FIND ON: Amazon


Told through the eyes of the Beast, Prince Orasmyn, he has been transformed by a curse into a lion, and can only be redeemed by the love of a woman. From this four-footed perspective, the young prince struggles to learn how to survive as a beast while retaining his humanity in devotion to Islamic moral principles.
Fleeing his father's hunting park, he travels as an animal across Asia to France, where he at last finds an abandoned chateau. There, using paws and jaws, he plants a rose garden and prepares the castle for the woman he hopes will come to love him. Enter the merchant, the plucked rose, the brave Beauty, and the story wends to its traditional end--but this time with compassion and a new vividness.


I didn’t know what to expect with this book. I chose it because of my recent interest in retold fairytales. But I was wary because of rumors about a weird sexual scene.
The main character is the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast.” He is Prince Orasmyn of Persia. If you read this, you’ll not believe the research that had to go into this book, of not only Persian, French and Latin language but also the religions, gardening, foods and of course about how lions live.
This book is a wild stretch from the books I’ve read of late. Its tone is quite subdued and not overly dramatic. It is told from the point of view of Orasmyn who is turned into a lion. I cannot believe I read and entire book from the point of view of a LION and actually enjoyed it.
The sexual scene in question is just after he’s turned into a lion, he is drawn to a lioness and they mate (to put it lightly.) It’s weird and uncomfortable. After I read that part I thought the author could have just deleted that part and the story would have been just fine. But the man is lost and ashamed and at several points gives up on his human self. After finishing, it makes sense why she left it in. It’s shocking and makes you wonder what else could happen, because the scene was not sexy.
I’ve seen the Disney version of this story a billion times, never the older versions. I loved seeing how he found the castle. I love the realistic way he won Belle. I loved watching them together. It made me cry at the end.


You know it’s a good story when you want a continuation after it ends, when you want to know what they do next. My heart ached to know more. For that reason, I’d have to rate this book at a 3. This book was Pretty Good. I just wish it didn’t have that icky, weird mating scene in it.


I’d recommend it for older teens because of the awkward mating thing. But other than that, it’s a very emotionally gripping and intriguing story. It almost felt like historical fiction.