Saturday, August 17, 2013
Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Press
My Rating: 5 out of 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.
Wow! There are not enough words that can describe how beautiful this retelling of Beauty and the Beast is. Beauty and the Beast is my all time favorite Disney movie, so when I heard of this book coming out I had to buy it! (Luckily, the author was in town and so I got my book signed by her too!) This story literally took my breath away with the author's poetically descriptive words. She depicted the emotions of Gem and Isra in such a fascinating, delectable way I was so enthralled.
This is not the usual beauty and the beast story. It takes place in a dystopic era where humans, also known as the Smooth Skins, and the Monstrous live. The Smooth Skins live in a domed city called Yuan with perfect weather and a bounty of food. Where as the Monstrous are banished to live in the desert with no rain and food is scarce. Told in the point of view by the two main characters, Isra and Gem. There is an occasional third point of view told by Bo, but I felt his parts were unnecessary. Isra is the princess turned queen of her city. She is blind, alone, tainted, feeling as though she has no confidence to rule a city. Gem becomes Isra's prisoner the night of her father's murder. Gem and Isra despise each other. He'll do anything to go back to his people, so he conjures up a lie to Isra that will help her heal her tainted skin. At first, they cannot stand each other nearly killing one another in the process. Slowly they start to break down their walls, speaking the truth about the injustices that are happening to both of their people. They form a love worth fighting for. This displeases the leaders, especially The Roses.
Isra was flawed with many insecurities. Since she was blind, her father let her live a sheltered life in a tower away from the city people. She believed her father kept her away because he was ashamed of her skin being rough and ugly. Isra was a naive, clueless queen in the beginning. She self doubted herself so much so that the king's advisor played her for the puppet she was. It isn't until about halfway through the book that she finally gets a back bone to make a difference for her city. It is through her flaws that Isra understands all the injustices that her own noble people are doing to the tainted people in the city. She became independent, head strong. Although Isra had no domination over her city, she decided on her own how she was going to die. She made sure she had some control to her freedom that no one could take from her. I commend her for that bravery.
I enjoyed Gem's character point of view a tad more than Isra's. Gem was a raw, angry, conflicted person. He was angry at his ex-girlfriend for leaving him with another man, while taking his son at the same time. Anger at his enemies for not sharing their wealth, making his people starve and die in the desert. Anger for going against all that is wrong, falling in love with his sworn enemy. Through his internal struggles, he slowly lays down his barriers, opening up to Isra all that he feels for her. I liked that he stood up for what was right to him. I felt his pain for his people as they were slowly dying. He was a strong, tormented character.
This was a fascinating book with all its dark magic. Those roses were frightening! I don't think I will look at roses the same way again haha. There were only two things that were left unanswered for me, nothing major though. I highly recommend this book with its beautiful poetic lyrics. Stacey Jay did this book justice and I'm so grateful I got the chance to meet her.
"Our lips brush, soft on softer, timid and testing, the barest friction of skin against skin, but that's all it takes to know that it's right. Isra sighs and twines her arm around my neck. My blood rushes and my body comes alive and everything in me lights up like a sunrise. Like a night sky spitting stars. Like her eyes when she smiles." Page 161