Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Author: Stacey Jay
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Published: July 23rd 2013 by Delacorte Press

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.

A wonderful retelling with just the right twists to the original story. One of the best I've read by far this year.

 This is a story based on the classic tale of Beauty and Beast. Isra is a Smooth Skin, whose future would be sacrificing her own life for her city. She is the Beauty. Gem is a Monstrous fighting to save his people from starvation. He is the Beast. They were never meant to be but as the tale goes, they fall in love. And a war between love and duty unfolds.

 While this is a pretty simple concept to grasp, the beauty of the book lies in the writing style, with its rich details ensuring vivid pictures. Miss Stacey has taken the known story of Beauty and the Beast and splashed it with her own choice of colors and I loved all of it. It had the romantic factors of a good fairytale, but also managed to pull off the extra bit of suspense and action.

 This book is a fantastic testament to the fact that even retellings are capable of having a flourishing world-building. The story focused on a dystopian based world and told us what happened to the world, how the Smooth Skins started to live in the domed cities, how the Monstrous came to live in the harsh deserts outside the safe cities, and how they became who they are. It was an almost perfect world-building with little details that gave the story a magical feel.

 Here we have romance that is exciting and full of chemistry. One thing I appreciated was how I didn't have to worry that Isra and Gem would start becoming one of the cheesy couples - because somehow, all of it was carried out in a good pacing. They didn't just wake up one day and went all "Oh, no! I love the other!" Not at all. It went right along with their hatred for each other. I don't remember the last time I rooted for a couple so much, but honestly, I think I wouldn't have minded if half of the book was composed of make out sessions.

 I wasn't a fan of Isra at first, but gradually, I started to like her more. She held on, even with all the lies and backstabbing around her. She didn't have to be particularly good at fighting, or the epitome of badass, because her character strength equalized everything and made her a true Queen. She was also blind, which meant that her POV focused a lot on sense and touch, which I liked very much.

 Gem was a character easy to like. He was determined to save his people from the harsh doings of the desert and was never planning on liking Isra, let alone falling for her. He was more flawed than Isra, which might be the reason why I liked him much more. He felt real to me, and his loyalty to his people was remarkable.

  In conclusion: I was desperate for a good retelling when I found this gem. Consequently, I enjoyed every moment of it and didn't hesitate to relish the brilliantly painted characters, the beautiful writing, captivating plot, and the marvelous world-building.

I really did want Isra to evidently have a thing for books just like Belle.

Hmm, debatable.