Fantasy Book Review: Of Beast and Beauty

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

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.

Isra may be a princess, but she feels like a prisoner – not able to leave, forced to marry someone she doesn’t love, and knowing she’ll be a sacrifice for her people. Gem is considered a mutant since his people’s bodies have adapted to the harsh land outside the dome. The two have every reason to hate each other, yet they form a friendship which leads to more.

This is an inspired retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale set in a distant, harsh fantasy land. The characters are vibrant and engaging. The narrative switches between the different characters and captures their distinct voices. Dramatic and unforgettable, Of Beast and Beauty is a captivating romance I thoroughly enjoyed.

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