Thank you Hodder Books for sending me and ARC in exchange for an honest review.
As soon as I heard about a Desi Beauty and the Beast retelling I knew I had to read it! And it did not disappoint! This has become my favourite Beauty and the Beast retelling!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Will the princess save the beast?
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.
This book was such a wonderful read and one I could not put down. Even when I wasn’t reading it my thoughts kept going back to Jaya and Grey. I loved that Sandhya kept true to the story but also included some really interesting twists to them and throughout the book I was reading thinking is it truly magic? Or not? It made the story even more intriguing to not really be certain either way so we can make up our own minds.
One of the things that I loved was that it was set in a boarding school rather than the beasts castle as it took away the whole kidnapping and keeping Beauty hostage part of the story which I absolutely hated because Stockholm syndrome anyone?! With it being in a boarding school and Jaya having actively decided herself to go and attend the school it took away that issue. And the boarding school gave it a fresh take on the story too as there are other characters and their stories which are interwoven into Jaya and Grey’s.
I loved Grey from the moment we meet him because unlike other Beasts, he isn’t a jerk. He isn’t cursed because he was a horrible person. He is really closed off and doesn’t like interacting with anyone and that is mostly down to him being aware of the curse since he was a kid. He is called a misanthrope, who is someone who avoids human society, and honestly I think we can all relate to that! He is actually a pretty great person but because of his curse he feels like he shouldn’t bother thinking about the future or making friends. Despite him not wanting to make friends, he still does have some pretty great people in his life who do call him a friend and that was so lovely to see.
Jaya was someone who I initially wasn’t particularly fond of, she was condescending and judgemental towards anyone who had a different opinion to her when it came to her conservative view of how a young woman should behave or be allowed to do. She doesn’t approve of her sister wanting to study mechanics because it isn’t something appropriate for a princess. She does however have such a wonderful character arc that made me end up really rooting for her and really loving her. We learn that there’s more to her than we initially see.
The rest of the characters we meet, Grey’s friends and Jaya’s sister and even the “popular couple” have more depth to them than we initially think they would. Their friends are wonderful and I loved seeing that there was a great group of friends who were supportive and accepted each other for who they were. I also loved seeing Jaya’s relationship with her sister and how they are always there for each other and how much Jaya tries to protect and keep her sister safe.
I also loved seeing Indian culture incorporated into the story and how it’s an important part of Jaya’s life but also how some parts of the culture have certain expectations for women and expect women to stay in their place and how Jaya learns to deal with that inner battle of being who she is expected to be by her parents and society but also being true to herself. It also touches on the British Empire and colonialism and how the effects of that still affect people living in India today.
This whole story and the slow burn romance had me feeling all happy and gooey inside and I just loved this book so much. I saw a brown girl be the book nerd princess and my inner child just loved it so much! I really loved how the ending showed how much they have grown together and because of each other. And I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in this series.