A hybrid fantasy/science-fiction retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Seventeen-year old Princess Isra of the Smooth Skin people and 19-year-old Desert Man (“Monstrous” to Isra) Gem have nothing in common save a hatred of each other’s people. So when a botched attempt to steal enchanted roses leaves the king of Yuan—Isra’s father—dead and Gem captured, the last thing the pair expects is to become friends. As their friendship grows, Isra and Gem takes turns narrating their attempt to puzzle together a history whose pieces don’t quite fit. While readers learn that the enchanted roses—watered by the blood of queens—that fuel the domed city of Yuan are powered by the Dark Heart, it’s never clear how and why this great evil split from its counterpart, the Pure Heart. What is clear, however, is that it is sucking the life from the outside world, leaving the Monstrous to inhabit an inhospitable desert. Isra, blind and insecure, doesn’t believe she has the strength to change things, but the love that blossoms between her and Gem will give her the courage to change the course of history for both of their peoples. Uneven worldbuilding, a sometimes rocky plot and an unbelievably fantastical ending take away from this engrossing tale.
Romance fans may forgive its shortcomings for the sake of the intense love story. (Fantasy/science fiction. 14 & up)