Published: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
Beauty & the Beast is one of my favorite Disney movies and I love fairytale retellings so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it.
Going into this book I was interested how having a blind main character would work out. I thought it would be hard to picture Isra's surroundings and what was happening, but it was surprisingly easy and worked out very well. I was also happily surprised by how much I liked Isra and that she didn't rely on other people all the time. It was pretty amazing how she was able to jump from her tower and land on the rooftops of lower buildings without being able to see them. I admired her determination to change Yuan once she discovered the truth too.
Some of the book was told from Gem's point of view and at first I wasn't quite sure what to make of him. But in the end, I enjoyed the chapters from his point of view as much as Isra's. It was very easy to become emotionally attached to both Isra and Gem because they both struggle and have had to live difficult or different lives.
A few chapter were from Bo's point of view and I couldn't stand those chapters after more of Bo's personality came out. At first I liked him because it seemed like he genuinely cared for Isra but I found his planning for the future a bit creepy. Bo and Isra don't really know each other but during one of the first chapters from his POV he thinks about her having his child and how caring for their child would be then caring about Gem. That just didn't sit right with me.
I enjoyed the romance in the book, but I felt like there wasn't enough build up to Isra and Gem's relationship. They start out hating each other and then it some how morphs into love while Gem is Isra's prisoner. I understand that they spent a long time together working in the fields but it just felt too fast for me. Once I got past that it was fine until it started to get a bit cheesy. But it wasn't intolerable cheesiness.
My expectations were high for this book and while Of Beast and Beauty was very good, but it wasn't flawless.