I gave this scifi YA beauty and the beast retelling a 4.8/5 stars. It was almost perfect with what I’m looking for in any book. Fast paced. Sweet romance. Beautiful prose and imagery. Great character growth. it lost .2 for a strange part in the first half where it honestly felt like I had missed a chapter. Otherwise, chef’s kiss. Highly recommend.
Here’s the blurb:
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.
Here’s my live thoughts while reading:
In the prologue we learn of the curse cast in Yuan against the Smooth Skins. This world building has the Dark Heart and the Pure Heart. There’s only one way to undo the curse. If even one Smooth Skin and one Monstrous can learn to love the other more than anything else then the planet will be made whole again.
Chapter one beings with Isra, in first person present tense narrative. This 17 year old princess is biding her time, waiting for the chance to escape. She’s been blind since she was 4 years old, the same year her mother died. It’s already evidently a sci-fi take on this retelling which totally excites me!
Chapter two starts in Gem’s point of view, who is one of the Desert People. He’s 19 with an infant son, who is trying to break into the city. I’m unsure why but it has to do with the magical roses. Isra’s kind views his as mutants and have build walls to keep them out.
Ah I’m in love with this story. The writing and details are so descriptive that I feel like I’m there and the emotion is so vivid on page. The characters already feel real and it makes me wonder how this author makes that happen and the last book had felt so flat.
So Isra has the chance to have Gem killed but gives him mercy, but maybe because he lied, saying she needs the antidote for the poison his claws put in her veins. And she just found out her father was murdered in this attack, making her the new queen.
The first time I’ve been confused is this sacrifice she mentions. Are all the queens used as sacrifice and why? When? How?
Wait. On page 83 it says “Gem’s stories are always wonderful, mysterious and magical and eerily familiar, stories my heart swears I’ve heard before even if my mind can’t remember them.” But this is their first interaction like that so I feel like I missed a chapter or something.
The story seems to be split into three sections labeled by season: Autumn, long winter, short Spring at the end.
Okay things get weird again on page 94 when Isra says “In the past two months, my time with Gem has become the bright spot in my day.” …. what? I haven’t seen any of this on page.
Chapter 8 has a major swerve when we enter Bo’s point of view, which was unexpected.
At the halfway mark the pacing of their romance feels a bit more natural. It started off rocky during the transition from enemies to ‘starting to trust.’
It feels like a double edged sword that she gains a lot of her confidence when her eyesight returns. Like, yes, that makes sense. But I also wish she had found that power while still blind.
I’m also 50/50 about how I feel about the unveiling of her appearance in the mirror scene. I need some time to process the deeper meaning and if I agree about how it was portrayed.
Oooh plot twist. Why had she set the fire then?
Alrighty. On page 289 she says “I must convince them that Yuan is rotten at its core. I must find the covenant and discover why it was hidden away.” This is what I had expected as an action beat in Act 1. Her internal growth in this novel makes sense for where it is the way the author wrote her character arc, but this big goal has been lacking for most of the novel.
Ooof. The end of the “winter section” was rough. Super rough.
Bo feels a bit like a seesaw character.
Omg this climatic scene is so epic and perfect and everything I needed.
I LOVED THIS BOOK. It was everything I want in a book and would make a perfect movie because of the twisty differences but how similar it parallels the original. Aaah, I’m obsessed. It made me so happy.