Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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.
Growing up, Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney movie. C’mon, a chick that likes to read, a spooky castle, evil townies, a Tauren love interest, plus some homoerotic household goods? What’s not to love?
So it’s understandable that I was a little nervous that this book would take those wonderful childhood memories and shit all over them. It didn’t. It took everything that I loved about that movie and made it darker.
Stacey Jay took Belle and said “Fuck what you think you know about this character”. She took Beast and said “Fuck what you think you know about this character”. She switched up their roles while somehow remaining true to their story and then dropped them into a futuristic world on a dying, distant planet. She took that single creepy rose and transformed it into a pulsing, seething, thorn-filled garden with a dark heart.
I can’t say that I enjoyed every second of this book but that’s because I wasn’t meant to. I was meant to be angry, I was meant to be frustrated, I was meant to be sad. Like in the original story, these characters are more than just skin deep. Even the support cast had depth that I don’t find in most MCs these days. They kept me on my toes, kept me unnerved. Do I like this dude or is he just a ginormous twatwaffle?
I DON’T KNOW! I CAN’T MAKE UP MY DAMN MIND BECAUSE HE WON’T STAY IN THE BOX I’M TRYING TO PUT HIM IN!
And then you have Beauty and the Beast themselves, or in this case, Isra and Gem. I was rooting for them from the second they laid eyes on each other. Those stubborn assholes.
But you know what? I got it. I totally understood why it took them so long to figure their shit out and that’s part of the beauty of this book. Even when they pissed me off I loved them, was rooting for them.
Another beautiful part of this book was the writing. Some books are a chore to read. Some are fun to read. Then you have books like this, those that are so well written that youforget that you’re even reading.
So, fantastc twist on a classic + fantastic characterization + fantastic writing + fantastic pacing = WIN.