Monday, October 20, 2014

Review: Of Beast and Beauty

“Of Beast and Beauty,” by Stacey Jay. The Goodreads summary:
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.
So good! It was way better than I was expecting. I was seriously impressed. It’s not like I had particularly low expectations for this book or anything, but I’ve just not been having super great luck with books recently, so I expected this one to follow suit. But I was so happy when it didn’t.

Admittedly, I don’t think any Beauty and the Beast retelling could ever live up to Robin McKinley’s duo, but those are very much classic retellings. “Of Beast and Beauty” takes the basic fairytale and transforms it into something uniquely its own. It’s mostly fantasy but kinda sci-fi too, and the world the author has created, while you don’t get to see all that much of it, is fascinating and complete with its own set of prejudices and social issues. And I loved how the lines were blurred between who was Beauty and who was the Beast. Gem and Isra are both . . . both, and it was just so dang clever of the author to do that.

Gem, I loved the whole time, but I feel like there’s not really all that much else to say about him. Tall, dark, handsome, brooding—what else do you need? Isra was a bit more interesting of a character, because while she’s likeable the whole time, she starts off weak and naïve and powerless. But then as the story progresses, she slowly comes into her own and finds her way. She reminded me a bit of Elisa from the Girl of Fire and Thorns series in that way. Gem and Isra were both characters that had me thinking about them even when I wasn’t reading the book, and when I finished it, they and their story stayed right there with me. (Which, since I finished this book right before bed, made it dang hard to fall asleep, let me tell ya.)

Overall, I enjoyed just about every single thing about this story. Not only was it a fresh take on Beauty and the Beast, but it was a fresh take that was done well. I whole-heartedly approve.

Rating: 4 / 5

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