Of Beast and Beauty
Kissing, references to sex
Kissing, references to sex
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.
Having established that I am a sucker for any book that may be even remotely a fairy tale retelling, OF BEAST AND BEAUTY was right up my alley. While ostensibly a Beauty and the Beast retelling, OF BEAST AND BEAUTY contains aspects of many well known tales, including the forbidden love of Romeo and Juliet and the girl locked away in a tower like Rapunzel. With all this, one might expect OF BEAST AND BEAUTY to be a bit scattered or unfocused. Instead, there is an intricate web of character development and plot, with some predictable aspects, but some surprises as well.
The story is broken up by three narrators, Isra, our heroine, Gem, our hero, and Bo, a boy who would love to be with Isra. It's less of a love triangle because the only feeling Isra has toward Bo is obligation, and there is none of the usual love triangle angst over who she likes better. Because we get to see inside the minds of all three of the main characters, we get an idea of motivations and begin to understand where all of them are coming from when they make certain decisions. Unfortunately, outside of the three of them, the rest of the characters in the book are a bit one-dimensional. As a reader, we are clearly supposed to feel certain things about Bo’s father (who is the king's main advisor), for example, but unlike with Bo, we don’t get a view at his motivations, and for as much as he seems to be pulling many of the puppet strings, he doesn’t get much face time.
OF BEAST AND BEAUTY is one young adult book that I’ll specifically note that I think teenage girls would love. While obviously in an extraordinary world, Isra is easy to connect and sympathize with. She’s a young girl who is stuck in a situation over which she has no control, and all she’s really trying to do is take some charge of her life and influence the world around her, not unlike every teenager ever. She has a lot of internal conflict which feels very real. Gem has his fair share of deliberations as well, since he starts out the book hating Isra, but over time as he gets to know her his opinion changes. The romance between the two is touching and sweet. Gem, for all his “beastliness” is gentle with Isra and by the end, truly cares for her.
In the end, I very much enjoyed OF BEAST AND BEAUTY. With some unexpected twists and character developments I didn't expect, the ending was a happily ever after, but not without some hardship to get there. I was satisfied in the end, and I would love to visit Isra and Gem's world in the future, as I'm sure there are many other tales that could be told there.
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