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.
As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.
In Juliet Immortal and Romeo Redeemed, Jay gave an apocalyptic twist to Romeo and Juliet, and now she does so with the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast." On a far-flung planet, the descendants of humanity have evolved into two camps: Smooth Skins live in domed cities, while the Monstrous deformed by the influence of a goddess scrape by outside, hated and feared. Does it make sense to draw an analogy to "Beauty and the Beast" when nearly every character is a mutant, rather than just one cursed individual? In any case, Jay's characters are well-realized, and Isra, a blind princess destined to be sacrificed for her city, and Gem, a reluctant Monstrous warrior, have much more than superficial appearances to negotiate. There is a personal, romantic side to their struggle, but it's the ideological, cultural, and cosmic perils that threaten to overwhelm them. Even if the story has only a tenuous relationship to the claimed source material, Jay's setup is intriguing and her writing assured. Ages 14 up.