Of Beauty and Beast was…wow. Just wow. I wasn’t quite expecting how much I would love this retelling! It does the story of Beauty and the Beast justice, enchanting me almost right away. I was captivated by the world and by the legends surrounding it. It has that fairy tale feeling to it, something I can’t really describe, but leaves you astonished all the same.
I absolutely loved Isra. It was easy to relate to her yearning for freedom and for her wish of something…more. She was independent when she needed to be, and gentle all the time. She’s a blind princess and tainted at that, so she knows what hurt feels like. She’s not like most heroines, but she’s quick, kind, and tries to avoid hurting people as much as possible. I loved her character and I’m pretty sure she’s my favorite princess-character I’ve read in a long time. My heart ached for her as she faced her impending sacrifice and I pitied her when we find out just how much she’d lost.
Gem was a great love interest, our “Beast.” He’s fierce, has a vendetta against the Smooth Skins, and is disgusted by the people of Yuan, especially our lovely princess. He’s temperamental and can get violent, but he’s humane all the same. The way he slowly dropped his guard and how hard he tried to stay loyal to both his tribe and Isra at the same time almost broke my heart too.
But as much as I loved the characters, the writing is most definitely my favorite part. It’s fairytale esque and immediately transported me to Yuan, where roses thirst for blood, and citizens cheer for the death of their queen. Sometimes the writing was awkward, but the majority was enchanting, drawing me right in. I loved the present tense writing, using “walk” instead of “walked” like so many other stories. That and the gorgeously bitter world Jay created made this an absolutely superb retelling, making my heart stop for several beats!
The worldbuilding? Splendid. While it bordered on cheesy and cliché at times with the Dark Heart and Pure Heart, it was still absolutely breathtaking. I loved reading about Yuan and the roses, how the sacrifice worked and how Monstrous, Banished, and Smooth Skins worked and what kind of people they were. While there were a few confusing points, I let it go since, you know, it reminded me so much of a real fairy tale. (I DON’T SEE YOU ASKING WHY THE ROSES WERE SO IMPORTANT IN THE ORIGINAL. Not the Disney by the way. And anyways, why a candlestick?)
The plot was absolutely shocking for me so many times through, especially near the end. Honestly, I had no idea what would happen. Especially when I asked myself: Is Isra really going to die? SPOILER: I’m not telling. Enjoy having your heart in your throat.
There’s no end to the amount of betrayals there are, some of them making me want to rip out a certain character’s throat. But, you know. All in good reading!
Of course, we have to talk about the romance. It was sweet, though filled with betrayals at first, but I loved how much Isra trusted Gem and how fiercely devoted Gem was to protecting Isra. The fact that it was a hate relationship at first helped a bit too. We don’t really get to see their relationship grow much except in passing, and I wished that we had so we could see Isra’s feelings grow. I wasn’t really quite sure what caused her to fall in love with him when she knew he hated her at the time.
Of Beauty and Beast is a compelling read that left me absolutely breathless at the end. It’s a fairy tale that’s more than a simple story and enthralled me from the first sentence. It’s written in a fairy tale fashion, giving us that “tale as old as time” feeling—of course, perfect for a story such as Beauty and the Beast.