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.
As a girl raised on Disney, I love retakes on classic fairy tales. I’m big into The Lunar Chronicles, and now that I have found this author, I may be continuing with her new tales! So, this is a new look into the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, while the male lead, Gem, is still the Beast; the captor relationship is reversed. Isra, the princess is his captor, and at first she is blind, learning to care for him based on his intelligence and personality. Gem has to overcome his inherent hatred for she and her people, who are his tribes natural enemy. Since it’s a tale we all know, I’m sure you can figure out how it ends. However, it still had me on the edge of my seat, wanting and waiting for the two to fall for each other, and to see how it happened and what they did about it.
Besides the essence of the fairy tale, this story was so original. The symbol of the roses was so interesting and something I never would have thought of. Likewise, the reason for people’s “beastliness” is really interesting, and loosely based on vanity. Jay basically takes everything from the fairy tale and flips it on it’s head, while keeping the core of the story and it’s message – which is an amazing skill.
I really like Isra and Gem, especially since we learn more about Gem than we ever knew about the Beast in the fairy tale. He has such a complex back-story, his culture, his relationships before he meets Isra, his need to prove himself to his people. He’s so much deeper than I expected and I really appreciated it. I also really liked how complex the relationship between he and Isra is; they openly fight their attraction to each other, which is a natural reaction given what they have grown up learning. Both of them push each other, to be better people, to be brave, and to accept themselves; and thats when they fall for each other, and it takes time! It’s such a great message about relationships. On top of that Isra is worrying about her tithe to the roses, being queen, regaining her sight, her betrothed who she just tolerates, and the state of her people. It’s a story about so much more than love.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. The author has a book coming out soon that redoes the Sleeping Beauty tale, which is my favorite, so we will see how that is!