Belle – by Cameron Dokey
Now, I’ve read almost all the books in Simon Pulse’s Once Upon a Time series (only one more to go) and Cameron Dokey’s contributions are my favorites. I also adore Beauty and the Beast, so it would be very difficult for this book to go too far wrong. I did really enjoy it, though I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite of her books. Dokey stays fairly close to the original plot of the fairy tale, while adding back-story and fleshing out the characters to make the story her own. Belle lives in the shadows of her two Beautiful (with a capital B) older sisters and often feels misnamed. She avoids going out into town with them and prefers to stay in her father’s workshop and practice her woodcarving. When the family is hit with an economic disaster, they move out of the town in into the country, traveling through the mysterious Wood where a monster is said to live. There is also a story about the magical Heartwood tree, the wood of which, when carved by the right hands, will show the face of true love.
Interestingly, the heart of this story lies, for me, more with Belle’s family and her relationship with her sisters than with her relationship with the Beast. For one thing, there is far more time spent on Belle’s childhood and the events leading up to the moment when she meets the Beast than on the weeks she spends with him in the Wood. The result is that the reader doesn’t get to know the character of the Beast nearly as well as Belle and her family. I would have liked to see more of the development of their relationship, although I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between the sisters and I would have liked to see even more of that as well. At any rate, it is a worthy addition to the series.