Definitely not my favourite of McKinley’s works — I thought I’d like it more than Beauty, and in one sense I do, in that something that bothers me about the ending of Beauty is addressed here and a different sort of ending written. I like the world, the sisters, the domestic stuff that (as usual) McKinley shines with. I liked the castle and Beauty’s work there, and the way other little bits of fairytale lore come in (like her experiential seven days spent in the Beast’s castle versus seven months for her sisters). It’s also notable that the way Beauty and the Beast relate to each other is very similar to in Beauty; the differences are more in a more complicated setup with slightly different inputs producing a slightly different trajectory.
My main complaint the first time I read this was that the greenwitch at the end has far too much explaining to do, in quite a short span of pages, and that remains problematic to me. Some things needed a bit more opening out, foreshadowing, something, to prevent a long stretch of infodump via dialogue.
Still enjoyable, though, and the writing is gorgeous, of course.