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Turn A Blind Eye

Stacey Jay turns Beauty and the Beast on its head in Of Beast and Beauty.

Turn A Blind Eye

BOOK REPORT for Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Cover Story: Paint Them Red
BFF Charm: Yay x 2
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Tale as Old as Time
Bonus Factors: Gender Inequality, Standalone
Relationship Status: Good Friends

Cover Story: Paint Them Red

I know the red fluid dripping down the cover model’s hands is probably supposed to be blood, and this book is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, not an Alice in Wonderland one, but I can’t help but think of this scene when I look at this cover.

The Deal:

Since she was a young girl, Isra, a princess of the domed city of Yuan, has been blind. She’s also “tainted,” or afflicted with mutations that make her displeasing to the eyes of other members of the nobility, so she’s been hidden away. But Isra isn’t content to stay locked up in her tower, and escapes as often as she can to visit the strange roses in the royal gardens, roses that help her see.

During one night’s adventures, Isra has a run-in with Gem, a Monstrous who lives outside the dome’s protection but has snuck inside in an attempt to steal a rose bush, which his people believe will help them thrive. Gem is captured, but not before Isra is intrigued by his humanity, which she’s been led to believe no Monstrous has.

BFF Charm: Yay x 2

Although she’s horribly sheltered—both figuratively and literally—Isra isn’t content to wither away. She’s blind, but has overcome what limitations her disability places on her. She’s sequestered, but finds ways to circumvent her captivity. When she meets Gem, she’s willing to overlook all that she’s been taught about “creatures” like him and gets to know the man underneath. And when certain situations cause her world to crack, she doesn’t shy away from the truth, even when shizz gets Real. I applaud her perseverance and strength.

Gem’s a warrior and wholly dedicated to protecting his family and clan. He would give up his life for their sakes at the drop of a hat, and is constantly plotting how he can help them while he’s Isra’s prisoner. But he’s not single-minded, and is way more clever and open to change than most warriors stereotypically are.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

As one might expect from a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Isra and Gem get close. The enemistry the two (outwardly pretend to) share definitely ups the swoon, and there are a few scenes that had me fanning myself. I would have liked more, however, to the relationship’s resolution, as it felt a little too tidy at the end.

Talky Talk: Tale as Old as Time

In Of Beast and Beauty, Stacey Jay has put her own spin on the classic beauty meets beast tale. It’s not just that Gem—the beast—is the prisoner in this case, it’s that Isra—the beauty—isn’t exactly a beauty. Their roles swap fluidly throughout the novel: in some situations both are truly beastly, and in others, they’re the opposite. This helps the story become more than a savior tale; it’s a story on what it truly means to be human. Chapters swap between Isra and Gem’s perspectives (with the occasional Gaston of the story’s viewpoint thrown in), and seeing them both through each other’s eyes makes their story richer.

Bonus Factor: Gender Inequality

Obvs, gender inequality is never a good thing. But I appreciate the way Jay deals with the issue in Of Beast and Beauty. Nothing’s entirely resolved—which is also good, because it could have seemed really unbelievable if it was—but when Isra realizes the inequality, she is pissed. I like that kind of fire in a main character.

Bonus Factor: Standalone

Of Beast and Beauty wraps up a little too tidily for me to be truly satisfied with it as a solo book, but I’m super glad Jay didn’t drag the story out through a trilogy. Because it’s a standalone, I feel like the plot was able to be more concise and the growth of the relationship less frustrating.

Casting Call:

A taller Michelle Ang as Isra

Isra is noticeably taller than most of her people. I’m not making a statement on Michelle’s height. (She’s 5’3”.)

Dominic Rains as Gem

Relationship Status: Good Friends

I don’t see us ever being more than friends, Book, but we’re never going to be just acquaintances. Let’s plan monthly brunches in which we can catch each other up on the latest gossip in our lives, and I promise to only set you up with people I think you’d really hit it off with.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Delacorte Press, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Of Beast and Beauty is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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