Author: Stacey Jay
Publisher: Delacorte Press, 391 pages
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
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.
What an incredible sci-fi retelling of a fairy tale. It's a beautiful and haunting story of love, prejudices, inequality, brutality, and dark magic. Isra and Gem are both such incredible characters and I loved that the story was told from both of their POVs. Isra is a strong, caring, and selfless person who has lived her entire life locked up in a tower because even though she is a Smooth Skin, she also has Monstrous traits and those with too many Monstrous traits are treated like second-class citizens or worse. Although she has been told the Monstrous that live outside the domed city are evil animal-like creatures, she has never met one until she meets Gem and instantly discovers that he's not at all like what she's always been told. Gem is courageous, brave, and kind. He's doing everything that he can to save his people, even if that means he has to deceive Isra.
Isra and Gem's slow-building relationship is one of the best and believable I've ever read. Both of them have grown up hating the other (Smooth Skin vs. Monstrous). The Monstrous live in brutal conditions (extreme cold and extreme heat) with very little food while the Smooth Skins have abundant food, green grass and trees, etc. due to a magic covenant. They slowly get to know each other and form a bond, realizing that they have much more in common than anyone would ever think. Even though this is a retelling it's completely unique and original and I love how they both are beautiful and beastly.
This is a richly layered and detailed story with amazing world-building. I felt so connected to the characters that I found myself tearing up quite a few times. Definitely has all the feels. I fell in love with the romance, which was flawless. I have to say, it's one of the best books I've read in awhile, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Just read it. And it's a stand-alone.
Posted by: Pam