Audiobook Junkie, Sporadic book blogger, occasional master chef, soccer mom, wearer of pajamas, teller of tales, cool aunt, beloved wife, and loyal friend.
Of Beast and Beauty is a retelling of the fairy tale with a sci-fi twist, but it was something much more than a simple retelling. I was completely unprepared for how strongly I was going to react to this book. From the very beginning, the beautiful writing grabbed me and transported me to this vivid planet and it's sentient magic on the brink of dramatic change. I had so many exquisitely written passages highlighted that I don't know which one to share, so I'll just share how it begins.
"In the beginning was the darkness and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret. The secret was as old as the cracked cobblestone streets of Yuan, as peculiar as the roses that bloom eternally within the domed city's walls, as poisonous as forgotten history and the stories told in it's place"
The planet's pain as it was shaped and altered by human's fear and unwillingness to try to understand and embrace change even if it would benefit them, was beautifully expressed in lyrical prose. The humans of this planet would rather risk destroying their world, live in isolation, and sacrifice their people than to consider the possibility that they could be wrong in their narrow minded discrimination.
Along with the underlying theme of a cursed people struggling to survive on a dying planet, a seemingly impossible bond was forming between the princess of one of the domed cities and one of the monstrous outsiders captured breaking in to steal food for his starving people. This romance was compelling and poignant and bittersweet and SO flawlessly written that by the time they got to the first kiss, MY toes were curling. I have to say that I'm usually pretty immune to most romance in YA novels, but I felt this one, this romance touched my heart in a way that few ever do.
Isra and Gem have to overcome so many obstacles to save their people, their planet, themselves, and each other. Their relationship, as they discover the truths about one another, was slow building and believable. Stacey Jay was not gentle with these characters, neither physically or emotionally, and each was brought to the point of breaking several times as they uncovered the harsh reality about their world, their people, and the magic that sustains their planet.
By the end, I was curled up in a corner sobbing onto my Nook, I'm not even exaggerating. I was so connected to this story and these characters that I felt emotionally drained when it was over. The HEA for me was that there was no cliffhanger ending. I was completely satisfied with the way the story was resolved.
I could go on further about the background characters, the dialog, the world building, pacing, and other aspects of this layered and detailed story, but I'll just say that all of those factors contributed to how very much I fell in love with this book. Nothing at all stood out to me that could have been improved upon, I thought the story was absolutely flawless.
This is absolutely one of the best, if not the best, book of 2013 and will have a permanent place on my favorites shelf. I highly recommend that you read this at some point this summer. I recommend it for every and anyone, whether you like romance, sci-fi, fairy tales, or are just a fan of outstanding writing and brilliant storytelling.
(I received Of Beast and Beauty for review from NetGalley)