I enjoyed Princess of Thorns so much that I bumped up Of Beast and Beauty to next on my list. And while I didn't love it quite as much, it was still a wonderful re-telling of Beauty and the Beast.
Summary on the back: 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.
My thoughts: I fell in love with Stacey Jay's writing style in the last book, and Of Beast and Beauty definitely didn't disappoint. Both Gem and Isla were flawed, but likeable protagonists, and Needle was a lovely side character. While I wish the background characters and world were slightly more fleshed out, I loved the unique richness of the world which had the feel of a fantasy land crossed with dystopian over-tones. I adored the re-imagining of the enchanted rose into a garden of blood-fed roses, and the entire concept of the story was extremely creative and imaginative. I loved Needle and Isra's relationship, and, while I wasn't 100% behind Isra and Gem's romance, I did appreciate that it wasn't instantaneous, my main problem with so many YA books. I also liked that, despite the dark tones, the story never felt gruesome or gritty, retaining the fairytale feel. Despite the completely changed world, the story still kept the elements of Beauty and the Beast - there were times when I realized what something was surprised to be (and did a little "Ah!" at the cleverness of the way it was re-imagined).
There were a few things I found awkward - especially Gem's son, who seems to be everything to him at the start, and presumably an important part of the story, only for him to die, and be barely mentioned by his father by the end; the baby's mother served no point whatsoever, and the rest of Gem's family seemed a loss of potential. But ultimately the fast pace and beautiful descriptions made me a fan of the book.
calliope tune: "I'm Telling You Now"-Freddie & the Dreamers