by Stacey Jay
To be published by Delacorte
on July 23, 2013
Connect with the author: website | Twitter | Facebook.
Summary from Goodreads: 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.My take: I really enjoyed Stacey Jay's companion books that re-told Romeo and Juliet, so I was excited to see what she'd do with Beauty and the Beast.
Overall, I enjoyed Of Beast and Beauty. I think my favorite aspect of the retelling was the fact that this book wasn't afraid to take some real liberties with the storyline. (This did not come as a surprise to me, as the premise of Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed was that Romeo and Juliet had become mortal enemies.) In Of Beast and Beauty, a centuries-old bargain made between an unspecified dark force and the colonists of the city of Yuan ensures that this domed city will remain prosperous as long as a human sacrifice is offered regularly.
Princess Isra, like her mother before her, is that human sacrifice. Blind since the terrible day her mother died, Isra lives a sheltered life inside the palace. But when a group of "Monstrous" from the desolate desert outside the dome are caught inside it and accused of a terrible crime, Isra's world changes dramatically. She takes an interest in Gem, the young Desert Boy left by his group and imprisoned in the palace. As they spend more time together, each learns about the world of the other. As they begin to fall in love, they will threaten the status quo and threaten to expose some of the lies that have kept their people locked in mortal enmity.
Another thing I enjoyed about Of Beast and Beauty was the way it took many thematic elements of the original story and really looked at them. The concept of beauty (or ugliness) isn't just taken at face value here, but really examined from different directions. The Desert People outside the dome have evolved to be scaly as a protection agains the heat, an adaptation that makes the "Smooth Skins" within the dome think of them as monsters. Isra, who has rough skin herself, has always felt that she's unattractive. I also liked the addition of the political intrigue -- there's a lot of plotting and scheming going on here -- and the way the Smooth Skins and the Desert people hate and mistrust each other.
That brings me to the romance. Isra has been raised to be afraid of the people outside the Dome, and Gem has been raised to think that the Smooth Skins within it are evil. While I really liked this element of the story, at first it felt to me that this unlikely couple fell in love a little fast. To be fair, the book did compress time a little, jumping ahead from one season to the next. But still, I felt slightly cheated. Hate-to-love can be one of the most interesting romantic relationships to read about, and I thought that the time compression prevented the reader from seeing the full evolution of the romantic relationship.
Of Beast and Beauty also has a third POV character, Bo. He is the son of the king's closest advisor and has been hand-picked as a husband for Isra. At first I was a little worried about this leading to a love triangle, but in the end, I thought Bo was a great addition to the story and also a very well-developed character.
I'm a fan of Stacey Jay and Of Beast and Beauty, and would recommend it to those who love YA retellings, but also to fans of the Under the Never Sky series, as I thought this book had a somewhat similar feel.
Have you read this? Want to? Tell me about your favorite retellings in comments.
This will be my giveaway tomorrow on Freebie Friday, so stopy by if you can!