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.
“Beauty is wherever you find it, and Beast is there when you need to defend it.”
“And what good is a voice when so few will listen?”
“They won't take the time to see that Gem's claws aren't extended, that his arms are gentle around me, or that my fingers linger over his. They won't notice that I lean into him, not away, or that my head turns to look over my shoulder, bringing my cheek so near his mouth that his silent breath warms my skin. They would never in a thousand years imagine that my eyes slide closed and a shiver runs through me not because I fear for my life but because Gem's body is pressed against mine, because his hand on my belly makes it ache, because the longing to taste him is stronger than it was before...
I would kiss him until I was breathless.”
“Its pointless. Hopeless. Even if she weren't afraid of me, we'll always be enemies at the core. She rules a wicked, selfish city, and my tribe suffers for her peoples comfort. Shes a queen; I'm her prisoner. I resent her and she fears me, and there are times when I fear her, too. I am her monster, and she is mine. But right now none of it matters.”