Of Beast and Beauty, by Stacey Jay

Of Beast and Beauty, Stacey Jay's horror/fantasy/sci-fi retelling of the Beauty and the Beast myth, takes its fair share of missteps. The story's mythology is murky, the ending felt rushed, and several of Jay's attempts at poetic descriptive passages sound like something written by an overwrought seventh grader, but I must give credit where credit is due: this is a huge, huge improvement over her previous two books.

Seventeen-year old Princess Isra, heir to the domed city of Yuan, has always known her fate is sealed. Like all of her female ancestors, she will eventually be required to commit suicide, sacrificing herself in the hope that her subjects won't become any more like the monstrous, mutated desert people who live outside the city's walls than they have already. Gem, a nineteen-year-old desert warrior, hates the “Smooth Skins” who live inside the domed city, hoarding food and magic. But when an attempt to steal Yuan's enchanted roses ends with Gem's capture, the warrior and the princess realize that they have hopelessly misjudged each other—and that their respective traditions may have gotten something terribly wrong.

Look, if you want to read an enthralling, imaginative retelling of Beauty and the Beast, hunt down Robin McKinley's Beauty. If you want an ambitious sci-fi/fantasy take on classic fairytale characters, try Marissa Meyer's Cinder. But if you've already read those stories and you're still hungry for more, Jay's Of Beast and Beauty is a perfectly respectable entry into the re-told fairytale ranks, featuring an unusually complex antagonist, a memorably creepy setting, and a lushly romantic central pairing. I'm honestly surprised to say this (because I'm still recovering from reading Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed), but you could do a lot worse.

Review based on publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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