Of Beast and Beauty
Author: Stacey Jay
Release: July 23rd 2013
Genre: Retellings, Fantasy, Romance, YA
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.
I haven't read even one bad review of this book — not one! And I hate to be the first, but sadly, I didn't enjoy this book. It was okay, certainly wasn't bad, but it didn't hold any interest for me whatsoever. It was, quite simply, extremely boring.
The world-building seemed interesting for half a second, but was never elaborated on, so that fell through as well. There are three Smooth Skin cities with its citizens, the Smooth Skins, the Desert with its Desert People and some kind of covenant and there was a background story with queens sacrificing themselves to give vitality to the cities. And that's it. I liked the story; it was nice and unique, but nothing new came after that, so...
The characters didn't really do anything for me either. They were all more or less okay, but just as I didn't hate or dislike anyone, I also never felt any interest or like towards them, too. Isra does have some nice character development going on there, even outside of the relationship revelations she draws (meaning: her realizing that the Monstrous aren't that bad because of her feelings for Gem), and I liked that, but that still didn't make me feel anything towards her. It was kind of frustrating, really. I wanted to like her, and I tried and tried, but ultimately failed nonetheless. I'm sorry.
Gem and Bo, the guys in this sort-of-love-triangle both get very little character arcs and development, and were mostly very boring cardboard cut-outs. The villain wasn't as surprising as he could have been, I suspected him very early on, although I'll admit there was one plot twist I didn't see coming. I should have though, because looking back on it, there were a million hints. Ah well, whatever.
What I will give Jay though is her writing. It started right on page 1 with its beauty and never stopped being out-of-this-world pretty and lovely. It's what I loved most about this book. I'll definitely think about checking her other books out now.
What else is there? Right, the romance. I was prepared for this to be heavy on the romance, I was even kinda in the mood for a nice and sweet love story, but ... I don't know, the relationship between Gem and Isra felt really rocky and uncomfortable. There's one scene where they're out in the desert making out, and Isra shifts on his lap and suddenly feels his ... pelican beak. I'm not kidding. There's a VERY funny scene afterwards, where she's musing about pelican beaks and stuff. I just... seriously? You're calling it a "pelican beak"? Oh, boy. Anyways, it wasn't insta-love, but I didn't feel like it was a gradual transition either. They hate each other at first actually, and over time they befriend each other because they're spending a lot of time with each other working in the garden. However, this was never really explained in detail, it felt like one day, Isra woke up and decided Gem was hot and she wanted to touch him. It was awkward and ... well, awkward. I know a lot of great romances that stemmed from a mutual dislike for each other in the beginning that gradually turned into respect, like, friendship and ultimately, love, but it didn't work in Of Beast and Beauty.
There's nothing else to say, really. I'll put this book on my shelf feeling nothing for it, because it made me feel absolutely empty.