Young Adult/Fairy Tale Retelling
Source: Bought for book club!
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.
Of Beast and Beauty is a gorgeous reimagining of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, one that forces us to reevaluate the traditional definition of beauty and see how devastating prejudice can be.
Isra is a young woman who's been sheltered most of her life, confined to a tower as she awaits the day in which she'll give her life so that the magic which sustains her kingdom will continue to flourish. As a result of her very limited life experience, she's had little cause to question her father the king or his advisor when they make decisions they feel are best for her, and her thoughts on the Monstrous simply mimic the thoughts and opinions of those around her. It takes us a while to truly warm to her (though she's easily likable from the beginning), convinced as she is that her world is simply too big for one person to change, but ever so slowly with the help of her Monstrous prisoner Gem she finds a backbone of steel she never knew she had. Once she sees that only the presence of scales and claws separates the Smooth Skins from the Monstrous, she begins a campaign to turn her world upside down and set right all that has gone wrong over the past centuries.
Gem is someone we can't help but root for from the beginning despite his plans to deceive Isra and steal the magic sustaining her kingdom, his interactions with her bringing a smile to our faces every time. He is a voice of reason, a bright spot of color shocking her black and white world, calling into question everything she's believed for so long and making her see (figuratively of course given her blindness) that one person is all that's needed to be a catalyst for change. Their romance is of the slow burn variety, the two of them forming a hesitant friendship at first that gradually builds in trust and respect until it turns to love and has us swooning left and right.
While things for Isra and Gem get dark in the final quarter of this book, we're left with a fairy tale ending and a sense of contentment, setting this book on a shelf of favorites to be re-read time and again in the future.