"In the beginning there was darkness, and in the darkness was a girl. And in the girl was a secret. The secret was as old as the cracked cobble streets of Yuan, as peculiar as the roses that bloom eternally within the domed city's walls."
It's going to be extremely hard not to write any spoilers when there's so much I want to talk about. To point out the obvious this is a retelling of beauty and the beast, Isra is a princess and Gem is what her people call monstrous. The start of the book explains how the current world has come to be and the magic that brought it about. Years ago people settled on the planet, those who lived in the domed cities were protected whilst those left in the desert would mutant and adapted to their environment. Centuries later something is keeping the domed cities flourishing and the desert people are attacking one by one.
Isra is the first blind lead I've ever read and I loved her, she understands her world so differently to everyone else and she's not afraid to explore, to escape her rooms she'll hop out the window and run across rooftops. Isra is born knowing she is to be sacrificed, and what I loved the most about her is that she isn't whiney or pathetic about it, she knows that sacrifice is necessary for her people. Due to the fact Isra is blind she's treated differently, she has had to rely on others and take their word as truth. There is so much more I want to discuss about her, but spoilers. Like the monstrous she will do whatever it takes to keep her home of Yuan going, explore every option she can, even escape if she must.
Gem, a monstrous, is sent out to sneak into the city but becomes captured along with others, it's a chance meeting with Isra that saves his life and buys him time to build a plan. Get close, gain her trust and do the job. He is constantly comparing himself to his father and brother, scolding himself at how he believes he's failing his people. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and for the desert people time is running out. The two world have been separate for so long, they've been reduced to stories and myth, which for Gem is a godsend. With Irsa having only heard stories of how they survive and how they can grow herbs with healing qualities Gem uses this to advantage to get close. He is determined to prove himself, the mother of his child has left him for another and with their home on the verge of collapse he must find the secret of Yuan.
Bo was a surprise character for me, he's not really the bad guy. Not at heart. He is simply a product of the Yuan, he believes what he's been told and genuinely cares for Isra. By all means he is no Gaston that's for sure, if anything his father is Gaston. Thankfully this doesn't turn into a love triangle, Isra has more important things to worry about, although she does reflect on the idea of marrying Bo. I don't think I could have bared if this had turned into more of an romance novel.