I actually owe my little sister Torrie for introducing me to Robin McKinley. She had Beauty sitting on her bookshelf and I grabbed it one day since I had nothing else to read. I ended up flying through it in one reading and quickly devoured almost everything else McKinley has written.
Beauty is a retelling of the classic story of Beauty and the Beast and while the Disney movie is one of my all-time favorite movies, this book accomplishes a lot more than the film.
Where the film and classic story of Beauty and the Beast barely creates a world around the story, McKinley's version helps explain more about Beauty's life before the Beast, and what she ultimately left behind to be with him. Of course, McKinley's tale pulls far away from the original fairy tale. She creates a far kinder and more sheltered Beast. As the reader meets him, you feel for his pain, even when you don't know what made him that way.
More than anything, the reader feels more for him, as you don't get the full amount of his loneliness from the film adaptation. The Beast is a lonely man who made poor choices in his youth.
McKinley has a skill for creating beautiful worlds and the world of Beauty is no exception. She turns a classic fairy tale into something much more. She gives the tale heart and life. I loved it.
Her other work is also excellent. She has turned some other fairy tales into novel adaptations as well, along with some short story collections (Spindle's End and A Knot in the Grain). Her original work is also excellent. Favorites of mine include The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, and Dragonhaven.
She is truly a master of creating detailed fantasy worlds around well-developed characters. While most of her work can be found in the young adult section, some are also in the adult fantasy section (I'm thinking mainly of Sunshine).
If you try any of her work, be prepared to be taken into a deeply rich and inviting world that you won't want to leave.