REVIEW: Beasts & Beauty by Soman Chainani

Beasts & Beauty by Soman Chainani is an interesting collection. It’s probably the youngest book I’ve reviewed for Grimdark Magazine, as these retold fairy tales sit between middle grade and young adult for the most part. This doesn’t mean that they are not enjoyable for an adult audience – I think they very much suitable for all ages even if they are aimed at a younger audience. The collection holds darker versions of twelve of the most famous stories told again and again in the western fairy tale corpus, wonderfully illustrated by Julia Iredale. The ARC I was sent for review only held preliminary sketches, but l came across a finished copy in a bookshop the other day (because yes, I am a slow reviewer these days, shame on me) and it looks absolutely gorgeous. These illustrations just add another dimension to the stories which I adore. I wish more books not aimed at small children came so heavily illustrated.
Picture for REVIEW: Beasts & Beauty by Soman Chainani

Beasts and Beauty Author Soman Chainani Deconstructs Fairytales with Modern Lessons in New Book

Soman Chainani follows up his bestselling young adult series The School for Good and Evil with a modern update on the works of the Brothers Grimm. The Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales author tells PEOPLE about what inspired the collection of classic fairytales, which navigates some of today's most relevant themes like racial trauma, sexual assault, and immigration.

Beasts And Beauty: Dangerous Tales

This fall, the master at upending classic tropes offers his first book outside The School for Good and Evil universe in a decade: BEASTS AND BEAUTY: Dangerous Tales. To be published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers in hardcover on September 21, 2021, it’s a collection of twelve wildly inventive and surprising stories which reimagine Grimm’s classic fairy tales for modern readers. These new renderings offer a diversity of cultures and perspectives as they push boundaries and pose provocative questions that will appeal to a wide range of ages and audiences.

The Rewriting of Childhood Fables

Recently I had the opportunity to chop it up with New York’s Best Seller Author, Soman Chainani, about his new book, Beasts & Beauty which gives us a reimagining of the classic fairytales. Soman grew up facing the fact that he was a person of color in a predominantly white environment. He described writing as a way of feeling human, “I am here, I have something to say. Writing was that outlet that helped me deal with things going on at home,” Soman remarks. Beauty & Beast takes classic fairy tales such as Snow White and turns her into an African American girl. The book keeps the same context as the original – being that the ugly old witch can’t handle that a new beauty is in town. Snow White speaks to the socialism standard of beauty if you’re not white you’re not beautiful. “The old witch not being able to recognize life to youth holding on when you should be letting go,” Chainani says about Snow White fable.

What would today's fairy tale look like if you could "un-Disney-fy people's brains"?

As a child born in the '80s, I never saw myself in a book. It was actually very easy for me to believe that African Americans, and other POC had little to no place in literature. I never argued or put up a real fuss –– but I did end up doing something more dangerous. I stopped going to the library, paying attention in English class and kind of did away with books. A few years later, I discovered a couple breakout titles like Nathan McCall's "Makes Me Wanna Holler" and Sista Souljah's "The Coldest Winter Ever" that spoke to my generation and my American experience. Even still, those titles were few and far between.