Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty

Title: Of Beast and Beauty
Author: Stacey Jay
Genre: Young Adult // Fairytale Retellings // Magic // Romance
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date:  July 23, 2013
Format: Physical Copy
Source: Gift

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 (goodreads).

Of Beast and Beauty is chock-full of imagination and a lovely love story about two people from opposite sides of the

Plot: Of Beast of Beauty starts with the story of a god that split into two, and started a deadly ritual that Isra knows is her only future. I stated off super invested in this story; we get back story, character development through dual perspectives, and a budding love story. As the story progressed and we found ourselves at the climax, I found myself losing interest. The time jumps felt shaky and the ending was rushed. Nonetheless, I appreciated the originality of the retelling.

Characters: I was drawn to Isra immediately. She is different from the rest and she knows that all the whispers from her father's court are about her. Even though she can't see herself, she knows that she is somehow different. I am a bit confused about the physical features of all of the characters, especially those living in Yuan. Upon first glance, I assumed that the characters had Chinese roots: I had this assumption mostly from names like "Yuan" and "Bo," Isra is blind so I held on to my beliefs for a majority of the story. However; Isra is eventually described as very pale and a brunette. Yes, she can still be Asian with pale skin, but brown hair? I can't remember perfectly, but I think her eyes are green as well. After this sudden discovery that Isra was not as I had imagined, I felt disconnected as I floundered to make sense of the world and Isra's appearance. 

I also couldn't quite understand what the Monstrous looked like. Gem is described as a giant among the dome citizens with claws, and scaly skin. This is repeatedly expressed to make note of his Otherness but I still struggled to picture Gem and his people.

In terms of the love story, I must say that I am a bit biased. I read Cruel Beauty last year and it all but changed my life (not being dramatic AT ALL). Ever since then, I have been looking for retellings that can recapture the same magic I felt while reading Cruel Beauty. Of Beast and Beauty did not meet my expectations because I did not feel that I had enough time to watch each character grow together and see how their love came to be. While it started off as a simmer, their love did not enchant me because the romance was overshadowed by their agendas. 

World Building: Of Beast and Beauty's strength is in its world.The Dome was created to keep the Monstrous out thus creating a class system of the Fortunate and the Unfortunate. Both Gem and Isra have lore from their cultures which makes the world more stable and easier to understand. 

Short N Sweet: Of Beast and Beauty is nothing short of creative, however its rushed ending and choppy characterization is hard to overlook. 


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