Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: July 23rd 2013
Of Beast and Beauty is one of the most unique and intriguing retellings I've ever read. Based around the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, this book tells the story of Isra and Gem.
Isra has been raised in the city of Yuan and has always know that she would have to sacrifice her life to save her city. Isra lost her sight when she was very young and her father has kept her locked up in his castle because of her monstrous traits. She wants to help the city and help the citizen who possess monstrous traits.
Gem is a Monstrous who lives in the desert with his people. He's willing to risk everything to save his people from starvation. Gem gets caught in Yuan trying to steal the enchanted roses and his freedom is bargained away by his father. Gem and Isra strike up an unlikely friendship. Secrets and betrayals are revealed and Isra has to choose between her city and Gem.
It took me a while to warm up to Isra. Sure, I felt bad for her because she was blind and locked away in her tower, but I didn't instantly like her. Isra was so obsessed with her appearance even though she couldn't see herself. She was constantly going on about her monstrous appearance and how horrible she must look, and it did start to get on my nerves. She never really seemed to care about anyone else to start with. But Isra did grow on me throughout the book. After she regained her sight, Isra started to focus on more important things like trying to treat everyone in her city with the same respect and help everyone. She also became less focused on her appearance and all of the secrets that had been kept from her and the lies she was told were revealed when she regained her sight. Isra grew from a whiny, self-obsessed character into a very driven and determined character who I really admired.
Gem was another character that I was unsure of. I admired his determination to save and protect his people, and also how far he would go for them. But Gem had his secrets and he was deceiving Isra for most of the book, but I did strangely like him. Gem is a thoughtful, strong and determined character. But he had his sweet moments that melted my heart. I loved hearing his stories and even though he tried really hard not to, he started caring for Isra.
Isra and Gem's relationship is one you know is going to happen right from the start (because it's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast so it was pretty obvious). Just like in the Disney version, I loved seeing the changes in both Isra and Gem as they became involved in each others lives. They both taught each other and help each other grow and it was really nice seeing that all happen.
There was a lot going on in this story that I just didn't expect. The amount of secrets and lies, backstabbing, twists and unexpected moments was unbelievable. I honestly couldn't believe half of the things I was reading because they were just so horrible! Everything that Isra was put through was awful and terrible and I sympathized with her. I honestly couldn't even imagine being in her position and learning all of the things that she found out.
I did enjoy the whole take on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. The whole city of Yuan, the magical roses, the dark magic and the Monstrous were all just amazing. Stacey Jay created such an original and fascinating world and I just lost myself in this book. I adored hearing all of the stories and background to the curse and the city of Yuan, and what caused the Monstrous in the first place. Everything about this book was just enchanting.
Overall, Of Beast and Beauty was a wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It was full of intriguing stories and unbelievable twist and turns that completely shocked me and drew me further and further into the book. I absolutely adored this retelling and it's definitely one that I recommend.