Of Beast and Beauty

Of Beast and Beauty

Rating: 4 Stars

Synopsis via 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.

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While this is a re-working of Beauty and the Beast, Isra does not consider herself beautiful, and neither do the people around her. She does not portray the iconic Beauty character, where she is beautiful and smart and brave to face the Beast. She is shunned by her people and has been locked away in tower (very Rapunzel-like) to be alone, blind, with only her mute maid for company for most of her life.

She is frightened by Gem on first sight, and he tries to kill her, only saved by her guards. She is a princess, about to become queen, and she must kill herself to ensure her people’s safety inside the dome. She must feed the roses her blood, or else everyone under the dome will die.

This is a very twisted, dark version of Beauty and the Beast. I love a story that’s a re-working of a childhood tale, and this one didn’t disappoint.

Isra’s people are cruel and are disgusted by her. She believes she is mutated in ways that would normally banish her, except she’s the heir to the throne and therefore the sacrifice. They hate her, and only deal with her because they need her blood, and she knows it.

And while Isra is Queen, she is only a puppet, and sure does act like one. She does not try to rebel or, well, act like a queen. Instead, she sits aside and lets her father’s advisor take care of everything. It doesn’t help matters that no one listens to her, thinking she inherited her mother’s madness. Her being blind doesn’t exactly make people afraid of her either.

And that’s where my main problem lies in this novel. Isra is weak, and makes almost no tries to rectify that. Her particular situation is pretty drastic in how few ways she could try to take control – even with her being queen – showing that she is more a prisoner than royalty.

“And what good is a voice when so few will listen?”  

I also would have liked to see more of Belle’s personality in Isra. Make her a book fanatic for Pete’s sack. But if this hadn’t been called Of Beast and Beauty and didn’t have the whole rose magic going for it, I would be hard pressed to realize this was a re-telling on my own. But instead, Isra’s frail, weak-minded, and though she has good reason to be, I would have liked to see more backbone.

Now, Isra does get better near the end, when she tries to take control, but it doesn’t last long, and this frustrated me.

The romance: loved it. I loved everything about it. Even though this is a different universe, the romance was believable. It didn’t just come out of nowhere, and I found myself swooned – just a little bit.

“A part of me is eager to be back in my cell. At least there Isra can’t cling to my arm, or brush her body against mine, or sigh through her parted lips, or tilt her face up with that look in her eyes. The one that make me want to strangle her. And kiss her. And strangle her some more. And maybe leap off a cliff after the strangling is done.”

I wouldn’t call the romance here a love triangle, partly because Isra has no attraction whatsoever to Bo, her suitor, and also, consequently, the son of her father’s advisor (in a whisper: who’s an ass) and thinks he’s:

While Bo is easy on the eyes, he’s not too kind in Isra in the way of he thinks every woman should swoon before him. But since Isra’s, you know, blind and whatnot, that’s not exactly going to happen.

But a big reason I liked this novel so much was unlike in Beauty and the Beast (since I’m assuming Bo represented Gaston), where Gaston never makes any good decisions and his affection for Belle can be brought into question, Bo isn’t that bad by the time we get to the end. Yes, he’s prideful, but he also seems to have real affection for Isra. He doesn’t just want her because marrying him will make him king, but he wants her just . . . because.

Gem, on the other hand, is the perfect Beast. He looks how you would imagine a Beast would look like, and he’s angry and vicious, but he still falls in love with Isra. But no insta-love here. Gem, like any good Beast, does not like Isra from the very beginning and comes very close to killing her. And he doesn’t stop there. He imagines killing her, hates her, blames her for what happened to his people. And yet, in the best way, for how much he hates her, he also loves her.

“I am her monster, and she is mine.”

This was almost a 5 star book for me, except there was a part after about 2/3 into the book and a little ways before the ending that I just kind of feel asleep on. I lost interest at this point, and just skimmed a handful of chapters to get to the end. It was short period of pages where I felt it was dragging on, but alas, it was there.

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