My rating: 5 of 5 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased Paperback
Publication Date: July 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Point of View: 1st Alternate
Genre: Fantasy/Sci Fi Romance
That's right . . . that's right. Another five star Beauty and the Beast read. And this one COMPLETELY different from the last one, and yet equally compelling in its own way!
Though I have to say, this wasn't as much of a Beauty and the Beast retelling as I thought it would be. That is NOT a knock on the book, so don't consider it a critique! I was simply expecting more ties to the original fairytale, and if I'd known that it was really barely related to it at all, I probably wouldn't have picked Of Beast and Beauty for my Beauty and the Beast month. I also think readers need to be aware that the similarities are very, very slight . . . because if you go into this book expecting Beauty and the Beast, you might be a little disappointed.
Which is too bad, because this is an AWESOME book for being just what it is! Let me tell you why . . .
WHAT I LOVED
The heroine, Isra, is such a compelling protagonist. She starts out so weak that's frustrating . . . but the reasons for her weakness are understandable, so you don't dislike her. You simply feel so much more desire to see her grow and become strong. Her journey of growth is so painful, but by the end, she emerges as such a pillar of strength and hard-won wisdom that you cannot help but love her!
Gem, the hero, is likewise a well-drawn character. He's not as weak as Isra to begin with, but he has a lot of growing and changing to do to. I love that he is a tortured hero without ever feeling angsty. When you consider his situation and his motivation, the "tortured" aspect just feels like a natural result, rather than a plot device. It's surprising to me how romantic of a figure he became, too, considering how very strange looking he is! But the author makes us relate to him through his perspective, then makes us fall for him from Isra's perspective . . . and it just all works really well!
The plot . . . oh, my gosh, the plot of this book was crazy. Sometimes, I'll admit, it seemed really slow. REALLY slow. This is a thoughtful book, and much time is spent in the internal head-space of the characters. While there is plenty of action over the course of the story, it's not exactly an action-packed book. It's one you've got to stick with and read with some care. But MAN! Once I adjusted to the slower pacing, I was surprised by how completely gripping the plot was! I simply COULD NOT figure out how a happy ending would even be possible! And . . . it's not. Not entirely.
Don't get me wrong, we do end up with a HEA. But it's hard-won, let me tell you. At one point, I found myself crying so hard by a turn of events, I couldn't quite make myself keep reading for several hours. (Though I then went on to finish the rest of the book in a quick, compulsive gulp!)
Yes, this story is a heart-wringer for sure. But it's really beautiful as well.
I loved the combination of fantasy and sci-fi elements. Wasn't certain it would work together harmoniously, but it ultimately did. The world Ms. Jay created was truly unique, truly original.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE AS MUCH
Really, my only complaint (other than it not being all that much of a Beauty and the Beast story, which isn't really a complaint so much as an observation) is that it was sometimes a bit ponderous. But I'm not sure I should even call that a complaint, because everything that happened was important. If the author cut or sped up things too much, the story wouldn't have worked as well as it did.
So my only caution to potential readers is simply to go in to the book expecting it to be a little more heavy or a read than your usual romantic YA fare. But it's worth the work. I promise!
Wow, I feel so lucky with my reads so far this month. All of them have been good, and the last two have been truly great! Here's hoping the trend will continue . . .
I am just starting both Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. One is my paperback read, one is my Kindle read. Nice to have options, right? Both have interesting openings . . . and while they might seem a little bit too similar at first, I'm hoping the authors will take them in different enough directions so that I won't feel like I'm reading two of the same book!
I'm making such good headway through my reading plans for the month, I might actually have room to slip in a few extra Beauty and the Beast books too. Because there are several others out there that have caught my eye . . . .
In the meanwhile, don't forget that at the end of the month I'll be picking my favorite read for April and offering it and at least one other book in a giveaway to one lucky mailing list subscriber. So if you'd like to win a couple of awesome Beauty and the Beast books, be sure to sign up for my mailing list today!