Title: Of Beast and Beauty
Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Press (July 23, 2013)
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: 3.5 Stars
I’m having a hard time figuring out what to say about this. Beauty and the Beast is a favorite fairy tale of mine and the premise and world building for this retelling were creative but ultimately I was disappointed. I had a hard time connecting to the main character Isra and as I go around in my head I’m not certain why. I liked her forwardness and though her naivete regarding those around her was understandable (given her circumstances), I found it frustrating. I did enjoy and sympathize with Gem, who plays Beast to her Beauty. His emotions came off as genuine and I liked his POV chapters quite a bit. The idea that their two separate cultures are enemies and they mistrust each other is not dispensed with too soon and there is no instalove, which is usually a plus. However even after their feelings did start to shift I didn’t feel invested.
The language is very beautiful in parts, especially in the prologue and epilogue and I liked the rewording and use of biblical passages and mythology. The exploration of prejudice between cultures and the adhering to ancient texts that no longer hold the kind of truths we’ve been told they did are also thematically relevant for today. It didn’t have a high enough level of action or surprise for me until the end when things happened very quickly. The last scene between Isra and Gem was dramatic and moving, but again this is largely from Gem’s perspective.
This has a lot of very good reviews on Goodreads and isn’t the first time I’ve felt a bit of an outlier when it comes to a book, but I’ve learned not to talk myself into loving something that for whatever reason I don’t.
This is the first book of Stacey Jay’s that I have read, however her Princess of Thorns sounds interesting and I may pick it up at some point this year. Hopefully with more enthusiastic results.