Release Date: July 23, 2013Published By: Delacorte PressLength: 391 pagesReview Copy: Hardcover, provided by Random House Canada for review
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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.
I really enjoyed Stacey Jay's twist on Juliet and Romeo and was excited to see what she would do with Beauty and the Beast. If possible I liked it more. Jay took all of the key and pivotal moments and spun them into something I was not expecting. Maybe if I had read the synopsis in full I would have but after the first little bit I did read I was convinced I wanted this book, no matter where it was taken. This was not a Grimm retelling or a Disney like version but something wonderful in its own right. With Jay's lyrical and beautifully flowing writing style everything just seemed to work.
Where to place this book in genre I really don't know beyond calling it a retelling. The plot starts at the beginning of a group of people coming to a land. Their arrival was to be a new start and it went horribly wrong, or at least the Smooth Skin people seen it that way. The people that the land and its magic effected more: the Monstrous, embraced the gift and the beauty but they paid for it with banishment and their every day struggle to live. The magic that the Smooth Skins embraced is a dark magic, even though they do not see it that way. They pay for their "beauty" with blood... to the roses that demand it. It is a dark and twisted world and life that everyone must live, it's a matter of how easy life seems and what side of the domes you are on.
From start to finish I liked Isra. She is unique in so many ways and though she seems weak at a few points, she really isn't. Basically it was just a matter of pulling at her inner strength and becoming the person she wanted to be. Oh, it was also a case of the psychotic advisor and counsel that all believed that the old way was the only way. Problem is that the old way isn't the only way and to be honest with you guys without spoiling it, it isn't even the original way. However, it is ultimately the transformations that this girl goes through that really makes her amazing. She begins to see things as they are not as she was taught, in her own heart knows the difference between right and wrong and stands up for it. She knows that things can change and wants them to but is the chance and the sacrifice worth it? For her the answer is yes. Every progression that her character made only made me enjoy her more and as far as beauty goes she has so much inner that it's hard to tell if the outer ever really mattered.
Gem was a lot more difficult to break than Isra. He was a fighter and I can not blame him for the hate he had for the Smooth Skins. From the outside looking in, it looked like they had it all while his people struggled to live and were dying. He may be what they call a Monstrous but what he sees in the people that thrive while he dies is monstrous to him. Also notably Gem did not just go ahead and fall for the girl that showed him kindness. Yes, he did feel something but was never sure if his desire to kill her or embrace her and battles with that for most of the read. My favourite thing about him though is the fact that he remains consistent and yet has character development throughout the novel. I even found myself falling for him and his stubborn views because in them he was his own person and someone in his own league.
There was a second guy introduced: Bo but it never really phased me. I really think he had good intentions but honestly he was never a true contender and my heart went out to him for that reason. He just was manipulated and wanted to believe in the way that things were but he had such a good heart when it came down to it in the end. Also another person that needs to be mentioned is Needle. She is basically the one that raised Isra and is a wonderful character, even though she does not speak. Needle is a pillar in Isra's life and is consistently supportive in her own way.. occasionally doing things that may get her in trouble just to help her as well. Though these characters play small parts without them the story would not have been the same.
Stacey Jay has blown me away with her beautiful writing style and flowing story. There is far too much to like about this book and nothing to really despise it over. By nothing I mean I can not think of anything that I could pick at when it comes to to this read. With all honesty this was a wonderful twist that kept its own originality and very well a story in its own while keeping the best parts of Beauty and the Beast. For those of us that love a good (in this case GREAT) retelling, this is one that should not be missed. If you are not normally a fan of a retelling... give this one a try anyway because its sci-fi/fantasy/romance story will capture you anyway.
There is only one way to undo the curse: if even one Smooth Skin and one Monstrous can learn to love the other more than their own selves
then the curse that division has brought upon our world will be broken and the curse that division has brought upon our world will be broken and the planet made whole.
This isn't the way. No women or children. We're not like the Smooth Skins. They are as soulless as a sandstorm. We are better. We know the power of transformation. This planet has changed us, but its magic is good magic. It would be enough to sustain us all if the Smooth Skins hadn't twisted it to serve their unnatural purposes. -Gem
But as I walk away, I can't help remembering Gem's cry in the hall, how desperate and human he sounded, and how much something inside me wanted to protect him from the soldiers.From Yuan. From...me. -Isra
The only thing worse than hating Isra is... whatever this is.Wanting her, wanting her to realize what a fool she is. Wanting this all to be over. -Gem