by Stacey Jay
Plot Summary:In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...
In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.
Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.
As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.
Review:Of Beast and Beauty is a very complex fantasy reworking of the fairy tale. The world-building has touches of science fiction, dystopian and traditional fairy tale feel that adds to the mysterious and elaborate world of Yuan. With such an intriguing backdrop, I thought this story of inner beauty and tolerance played out very well.
Isra and Gem are the main characters, and while they both have their own agendas, they get to know each other and reluctantly start to respect each other and fall in love. The story mostly switches back and forth between their points of view (with one additional POV sometimes inserted later in the book) and the gradual unfolding of their relationship created a lovely romance between two people who at first seem not to have anything in common. It's a very believable relationship - that is not easily achieved - and it becomes so romantic, the suspense of when they would acknowledge their feelings was delicious! I thought the characterization of Isra was stronger than of Gem - I didn't feel as if I knew him as well as Isra. Isra was a strong character - determined, despite her disability, and very brave to confront the things she had to face. Totally admirable.
I loved the role the roses had to play in this story - it's such a creepy and very vivid concept! The secondary character - Bo (possible villain or love interest - it kept me guessing!) worked so well in this story, I thought his character arc was so touching and almost redemptive. The history behind the creation of the domed cities and the Monstrous was well-explained but somehow it didn't feel as believable as the rest of the story. I think if more time was spent on the origin it might have felt more real, but it did seemed rushed over in the beginning.
The moral of this story, like any good fairy tale, is pretty clear, and very timely I think especially for young adults. This is a beautifully written story with such a unique take on Beauty and the Beast.
I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.