Reviews for Of Beast and Beauty

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
Both physically blind and blind to the inequities faced by her people, Isra has been raised in the domed city of Yuan. Gem, a mutant from outside the dome, is driven by revenge for the harsh treatment under which his people suffer. Jay pens a predictable star-crossed romance but sets it in a world that ably blends science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian politics.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #2
A hybrid fantasy/science-fiction retelling of "Beauty and the Beast." Seventeen-year old Princess Isra of the Smooth Skin people and 19-year-old Desert Man ("Monstrous" to Isra) Gem have nothing in common save a hatred of each other's people. So when a botched attempt to steal enchanted roses leaves the king of Yuan--Isra's father--dead and Gem captured, the last thing the pair expects is to become friends. As their friendship grows, Isra and Gem takes turns narrating their attempt to puzzle together a history whose pieces don't quite fit. While readers learn that the enchanted roses--watered by the blood of queens--that fuel the domed city of Yuan are powered by the Dark Heart, it's never clear how and why this great evil split from its counterpart, the Pure Heart. What is clear, however, is that it is sucking the life from the outside world, leaving the Monstrous to inhabit an inhospitable desert. Isra, blind and insecure, doesn't believe she has the strength to change things, but the love that blossoms between her and Gem will give her the courage to change the course of history for both of their peoples. Uneven worldbuilding, a sometimes rocky plot and an unbelievably fantastical ending take away from this engrossing tale. Romance fans may forgive its shortcomings for the sake of the intense love story. (Fantasy/science fiction. 14 & up)

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 May #3

In Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed, Jay gave an apocalyptic twist to Romeo and Juliet, and now she does so with the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast." On a far-flung planet, the descendants of humanity have evolved into two camps: Smooth Skins live in domed cities, while the Monstrous--deformed by the influence of a goddess--scrape by outside, hated and feared. Does it make sense to draw an analogy to "Beauty and the Beast" when nearly every character is a mutant, rather than just one cursed individual? In any case, Jay's characters are well-realized, and Isra, a blind princess destined to be sacrificed for her city, and Gem, a reluctant Monstrous warrior, have much more than superficial appearances to negotiate. There is a personal, romantic side to their struggle, but it's the ideological, cultural, and cosmic perils that threaten to overwhelm them. Even if the story has only a tenuous relationship to the claimed source material, Jay's setup is intriguing and her writing assured. Ages 14-up. Agent: Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown. (July)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 August

Gr 8 Up--Hundreds of years after humans landed on a distant planet, Smooth Skins live in protective domes that keep out the scaly skinned Desert People, whom they call Monstrous. Blind since childhood, 17-year-old Princess Isra makes clandestine nighttime visits to the dome's rose garden. Someday, as queen, she will have to shed her blood to water the roses and keep the city secure. To save their people from starvation, a Monstrous raiding party attempts to steal the roses and their magic. Isra demands that 19-year-old Gem be spared. She hopes that he can help her raise plants to stop the scaling skin that could doom her to banishment. Slowly Isra comes to see both literally and figuratively the deformities and mistreatment of the Banished inside the city and the injustices done to the Desert People outside. Gem realizes that Isra, too, is a prisoner, destined to marry Bo, whose powerful father manipulates events to make sure his son will rule the kingdom. Eventually Isra learns that the queens' bloodletting actually feeds an evil Dark Heart beneath the flowers. Only love between a Smooth Skin and a Monstrous can break an ancient curse. Isra, Gem, and Bo narrate chapters of this reimagining of the familiar tale. Isra and Gem reluctantly acknowledge their growing attraction that deepens into love. Bo, who might have emerged as a villain, instead questions the need for sacrifice and resists his father's demands. Explanations of complex history and legend slow the pace at times, but revelations and plot twists keep the action flowing and romance growing. Variations of conventions such as having a Monstrous attempt to steal roses and bring the dying princess to life are overshadowed by the final transformation of Isra, Gem, and their people into something entirely new, both Beast and Beauty. A satisfying read for fans of romantic fantasy.--Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

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VOYA Reviews 2013 August
Princess Isra has grown up knowing that her life will be sacrificed for the benefit of her people, the Smooth Skins. Though she is blind, she sees the needs of her subjects, and even wants to further help the Banished ones that are hated and condemned to a miserable existence at edges of their domed city. These humans are treated as animals because they display the traits of the Monstrous, a distorted race that lives in the desert outside the domes. When Gem, one of these mutants, is captured trying to steal the city's magic roses to save his people from starving, Isra's life changes. As more and more secrets of Isra's world come to light, Isra must choose between the destiny laid before her, or her feelings for this monster and his people's welfare, as well as her own Author Jay does a fantastic job creating a modern-day version of the Beauty and the Beast tale with a science fiction flair and a dark twist. The characters are very well developed, and switching viewpoints between the leads allows readers to know and care deeply about them. As Isra's world changes, readers grow with her and are shocked by the revelations. While hope dwindles, readers will pull hard for their characters. Even though it is a familiar story, Jay recreates it in a fresh new way, with plenty of suspense and intrigue. There is plenty of action and just enough romance to make the story believable and engaging. It is a great update of a classic fairy tale.--Dawn Talbott 4Q 4P S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.