Of Beast and Beauty
by Stacey Jay
Published: 23 July 2013
Delacorte Press, Hardcover, 391 pages
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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.
Recently, I’ve made it pretty known that I’m a huge fan of classic and fairytale retellings. So imagine my excitement when I spotted Of Beast and Beauty at the library! I’ve got to admit the stunning cover was what first captured me because apparently, I’ve got a thing for roses and blood on book covers (like Renegade by J.A. Souders).
Moving on to the actual plot, I would say Stacey Jay successfully created a very fairytale-like feel. However, that also means the villains didn’t seem villainous enough and the buildup to the climax was slightly lacking. Despite that, I did love the romance between Isra and Gem. It’s simply wonderful how two people raised to hate each other’s kind can fall in love.
Or maybe star-crossed lovers are just too enchanting.
Isra was a very interesting protagonist. The fact that she was blind really set her apart as when the story was told from her perspective, it was quite fascinating for me to imagine things from a blind girl’s point of view (pun completely unintended). As for Gem, it was pretty adorable witnessing him trying to keep on hating Isra when he obviously was falling for her though I did feel his character needed to be better defined.
One other notable character was Bo. He actually disturbed me from the very beginning and was quite an unpredictable character. His unpredictability actually made the story more mysterious and intriguing, though. Because it makes you wonder whether he’s going to have a violent outburst or do something noble. I’m pretty sure Bo was meant to represent Gaston, one of the villains in the original story. Yet, Stacey Jay’s twist on Gaston’s character in Bo created a more human character whose motives were better understood and realistic.
Overall, Of Beast and Beauty was a magically enchanting adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Although not a stunning young adult novel, I would say it was an unique fairytale retelling that still kept the important areas of the original tale. If you’re looking for a more in depth sci-fi fairytale retelling, I would recommend the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer instead, but if you want a simple science fiction and fantasy standalone, you should definitely pick this up.