Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
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 initially read the synopsis for this story based on the striking cover. The title also gave a hint that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast so that also grabbed by attention. It wasn’t until I noticed that author’s name that I realized I had read her series Juliet Immortal and had enjoyed the retelling she did there. So with so many things seeming to align, I decided to put my name on the hold list.
Truth be told, I almost stopped reading this book. The first 20 pages or so were really tough to get through. I think most of it had to do with the setting and the descriptions of the characters. I had a hard time visualizing the world that was being described and that always turns me off a book. I always like to have a firm grasp of what the world and characters look like when I am reading and I wasn’t getting that here. So I decided to act on my 50 page rule–if I didn’t like what I was reading or didn’t care about what was happening after 50 pages, I was dropping this book.
I couldn’t even tell you what page I was at when I realized I was starting to like this book. It just snuck up on me and before I knew it I was 100 pages in and excited to see what was happening next.
I think what happened was that the focus of the book shifted from appearances and instead focused on character and plot development. I think it is important not to go into this book expecting an exact retelling of Beauty and the Beast because that isn’t what this book is. Sure there are elements of the story present here but it isn’t what is driving this story. This story focuses on finding yourself in a world of restrictions and learning to love others–which you will argue is the point of Beauty and the Beast, especially the Disney version but that is where the similarities between the two end. I find the Disney version focuses more on the romance between Belle and the Beast while this book focuses more on independent growth and breaking the curse.
Also, the story can get very depressing at times and is set in a world of desperation and no hope. It’s very dystopian in its approach and often sad but I think it really works here.
Irsa and Gem really mature as the book progresses so while they aren’t my favourite literary heroes of all time, I can respect their characters.
What I really liked about this book was the mystery Irsa uncovers about the curse. The curse development really helps push this book and gives it something more than character development. Learning more about what the curse is, how it was created and how you can break it was really interesting to me and I think that is what kept me reading.
This book starts off a little slow but once the characters get invested in saving their respective people the story starts to pick up. Those who don’t mind a bit of fantasy mixed with dystopian settings will really enjoy this. Not for everyone but if you like trying something new or like different takes on fairy-tales, you will like this!
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Fairy-Tale Retelling
Recommended for: 17+
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