Date of Publication: July 23 2013
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.
The romance was incredible. You know it's a big deal when I, not known for my love of romance, thought it was great. The love was sweet and profound, and some lines had me almost in happy tears. It's amazing to read about a love so pure.
Of Beast and Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in a new planet. There are two main POVs. Isra, Princess of Yuan, has pretty much been hidden away in a tower for most of her life. Gem, a Desert Dweller, is a warrior setting out to protect his tribe from starvation. Naturally, both sides hate each other.
My pitiful explanation of the premise behind Of Beast and Beauty doesn't do the story justice at all. There are many layers and mythological aspects to the story. Overall though, the story felt less like a fantasy or sci-fi than another fairy tale. Isra and Gem's love is not coincidence; it's fated.
I'm not saying there is insta-love, because there isn't. Isra and Gem both start out curious about each other. They consider hurting the other for their own goods, but slowly they change.
Of Beast and Beauty is a very character oriented story. There is action, but the book draws you in with beautiful words rather than thrilling sequences. This style works very well for the fantastical romance of Of Beast and Beauty. The characters do change, and the reader experiences the growth with them. There is absolutely no confusion as to what is happening.
The story is well executed, and I was fully engrossed in it. The ending in particular, with some revelations, had me desperately hoping for a happy ending. I think overall, Of Beast and Beauty is an extremely clever retelling, because it takes all the best elements of the original fairytale and makes them its own. The theme of beauty is well explored, and I think my favourite part is that neither Isra or Gem are fully beauty or beast. There's more to the story than that.
One thing I didn't like was that the writing was almost too much at times, and especially early on, the plot was slow. At one point, Isra discovered something she needed a little too conveniently, but that's where the whole fated part comes in, I suppose.
Overall, Of Beast and Beauty was an incredible romance and a fantastic retelling. 4 stars.