Thursday, July 10, 2014

Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

 391 pages
Published: July 23rd, 2013 
Published by: Delacorte Press
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5/5

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.

As far as I'm concerned, retelling are awesome so I'm always looking for new ones. This one caught my eye for two reasons: I love the concept of Beauty & the Beast and the cover is gorgeous. I looked it up on Goodreads before I bought it and the ratings were pretty good, too.  I'm so glad I bought it. Here's why:

Princess Isra is our beast. Sheltered and blind, Isra is seen as weak and unimportant by her people. Their existence relies on the power of the roses and the dome keeping them isolated from the dangers of the outside world. Isra's destiny is to sacrifice herself to the enchanted roses to keep the balance in her city. When Gem is captured during a mission to steal the roses, Isra begins to question her past, present, and future.

As far as retellings go, this one is great. The characters are truly fantastic. Isra's blindness makes for an interesting perspective. There's a lot more detail about what she hears and how she manages to travel throughout her city. Gem's hatred is evident and on point with the original. Together, they're a great foundation to this story. Of Beast and Beauty keeps the same dark tone of the original while adding elements that took me by surprise. The pace is just right and the development of the relationship between Gem and Isra happens gradually. The story is told through multiple points of views--mainly those of Gem and Isra--and the struggle happening inside both of them is fascinating to read. The world building was surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting such intricate details about the story between the Smooth Skins and the Monstrous. As a whole, Of Beast and Beauty creates a great atmosphere and does not take away from the original. 

If I'm not mistaken, Stacey Jay wrote a Romeo & Juliet retelling called Juliet Immortal. Based on my experience with this book, I'm looking forward to reading more of her work! 

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