In Beauty, McKinley ingeniously recasts the familiar tale of "Beauty and the Beast" so that it easily stands on its own as an absorbing novel. Both central and peripheral characters are convincingly and sympathetically drawn. McKinley skillfully mixes joy and sadness, contrasting Beauty's ominous departure from her family with the festive, exultant scene of her wedding. Perhaps McKinley's greatest talent is an ability to impart suspense to a story whose outcome is known in advance to most readers.
Underlying the events of the story is the revelation that beauty lies within a person, and is not a matter of mere physical appearance.