Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Title: Of Beast and Beauty
Author: Stacey Jay
ISBN: 978-0385743204
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pub. Date: 2013
Source: Purchased
Genre: Romance/ Fantasy/ Science Fiction/ Fairy Tale/ Retelling
Pages: 400
5 Kisses

Author's Website

Synopsis (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.

My Reveries and Ramblings:
     What a unique book!  I have never read anything like this.  It’s a fairy tale-science fiction-fantasy-myth-romance story.  Of Beast and Beauty starts out like a myth or an old legend.  The prologue is the history of this planet spoken by The Pure Heart (the good side of the planet).  The condensed version:  He explains to the readers what happened after the ships, filled with humans, arrived on his planet.  How he introduced magic to them and how they split themselves up into two groups: the Smooth-skins, people without magic and the Monstrous, people who started to mutate because of the magic.  The Smooth Skins locked themselves up in domes offering a sacrifice to The Dark Heart, the evil side of the planet, in return for an abundance of resources and safety.  So long as they kept giving a sacrifice, nothing bad would happen.  The Dark Heart placed roses in the city’s walls as a reminder of the deal.  Meanwhile, the Monstrous were banished to the desert and began to go hungry and cold.  After trying to convince the people to stop hating and killing, The Pure Heart used it’s magic to place a curse on all the people.  The Smooth Skins would be born either with some of the mutations of the Monstrous or they would be born with missing body parts.  The Monstrous could never shed tears.  The only way to undo this curse is: 
“If even one Smooth Skin and one Monstrous can learn to love the other more than anything else- more than safety or prejudice, more than privilege or revenge, more even than their own selves-then the curse that division has brought upon our world will be broken and the planet made whole.” -p.5
     Isra the current (blind) queen of Yuan, one of the remaining domed cities.  She is to be the next sacrifice as soon as their resources start to deplete. She lives each day knowing that she could be asked to die the next day.  Because her death is the city’s only way to survive, she is smothered by her protectors on a daily basis.  Isra wants nothing more than to feel the wind outside Yuan’s walls.  
     Gem is a Monstrous warrior.  He sneaks into Yuan to steal their magic roses to help save his people from suffering and dying.  He gets captured and is imprisoned.  Isra forces him to help her make a garden to help heal the people who were given monstrous traits at birth.  
      Gem is so large and masculine.  (I pictured a werewolf in human form….there are no werewolves in this story, though).  He wants to save his people, but instead is being forced to play gardener by Isra.  He hates her.  He hates her so much.  But he also pities her.  These two contrasting feelings frustrate him.  As he spends more and more time with Isra, however, he starts caring for her.  
      Now, onto why I really liked this book.  For starters, Ms. Jay created a heroine, who in every way should not have been one.  Here’s the thing, though, Isra knew that.  She had every card stacked against her.  Isra did what she believed was right.  She follows her gut instinct.  So what if she was blind.  So what if she was threatened with being locked in a tower.  Even blind, she figures out a way to help her people.  She’s stubborn. Even though her advisors treat her like a child and humor her, she does everything she can to help her people.  I admired her so much because of this.  She knew who she was and what her circumstances were.  She never let any of that get her down.  She was also very caring and wanted to prove that she can not only help her people, but lead them.
     Okay, so.... the romance….so perfect! Ms. Jay has Gem and Isra HATING each other in the beginning.  And that just sounds like a boy-and-girl-hate-each-other-then-fall-madly-in-love kinda YA book but it was different.  It wasn’t as superficial as one would think.  There so much at stake for both sides.  They have people they want to protect and help and no matter how much he/she likes the other person, they must hold true to their individual end-goals.  But after a while, Gem becomes protective over Isra, and becomes disgusted at how she’s treated by those around her.  Isra, in turn, wants to help him in his plight to save his people.  They grow to care for each other over a very long time.  The romance was really well developed.  Not cliched at all.  There is a love triangle.  It’s okay though! It’s VERY obvious which guy we want to win.   
     I hated the other guy, Bo.  UGH Bo! Bo and his father, Junjie, are conniving, manipulative, and just plain bad.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying Bo is evil.  But he’s definitely very very selfish.  Ugh, the last time I felt this way about the bad guy was with Prof. Umbridge *shivers*.   
     The final thing I loved about this book was the world-building.  It’s not an epic read, however Ms. Jay fleshed out a very detailed world.  The Smooth Skins and the Monstrous had their own ways of life, their own cultures and language, as well as physical appearances and characteristics, stories, etc.  Ms. Jay also gave the planet a voice.  Literally.  The spirit of the planet was the one who placed the curse over the people.  It was the one who wanted to make people stop hating and start loving.  I would love to dive back into this world.  I was very sad when I finished the book.  Of Beast and Beauty is a stand alone book. sequel :( 
     Of Beast and Beauty felt like a cross between Beauty and the Beast and the anime Romeo x Juliet (which if you haven’t seen, I HIGHLY HIGHLY RECOMMEND’s a beautiful, EPIC, and very unique re-telling of the classic Shakespeare play).  Of Beast and Beauty had an EPIC ending!  Loved every minute of this book.  It had the perfect blend of sci-fi, romance, and fantasy with a dash of political intrigue.  I would highly recommend you read it this beautiful and one-of-a-kind re-telling...and then tell your friends to read it! 

(Click Here if you want to listen to it on Grooveshark--if you don't have spotify)
Had so much fun making this playlist. A lot of these songs I actually listened to while reading the book and they fit perfectly with certain scenes. Like "Oblivion" played during the epic climax scene at the end. Hope you enjoy this playlist :)

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