**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28, 2014
Genres: Demons, Fairytales, Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult
AMAZON • B&N • BOOK DEPOSITORY • Goodreads
Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.
CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge was a good read. A nice retelling of the Beauty and the Beast tale with original worldbuilding, stunning imagery, and a heroine that defies YA convention. Though I had some issues with the romance and the pacing, I thoroughly enjoyed CRUEL BEAUTY.
What I loved about CRUEL BEAUTY is Nyx, our heroine. She’s no Mary Sue. She’s been raised to marry the demon her family holds responsible for her mother’s death, the demon responsible for holding her world hostage. Nyx is to marry him and kill him. Her death is considered an acceptable risk and a likely outcome. Nyx is brave and bitter. She only has contempt for the people who put her in this position – her father and her aunt – and she harbors hate for her sister whose gotten all the love and protection that Nyx has been denied. This conflict has all the angst and drama you can expect. Nyx is wonderful. She’s tough; her anger makes it a bit hard to feel warm and cuddly about her but it’s totally human and real which I appreciate. And her journey from bitterness and guilt to acceptance is also pretty powerful.
Once she’s married to the demon Ignifex and moves into his castle, the mysterious labyrinthine house opens her in ways unexpected. The constantly changing hallways with rooms that are fields and libraries and magic mirrors and mausoleums…It’s gothic in the best sense. This setting is magnificent and imaginative even if a bit overwritten. The wonderful description was sometimes so dense I had to re-read passages in order to fully understand the imagery. But it’s a mysterious setting that works well for the budding romance between Nyx and Ignifex. He’s just as mysterious as his castle and with no memory of his past and fear of the dark, he’s also vulnerable, something Nyx didn’t expect and it unnerves her. And moves her. It’s a nice romantic build – from hate to love; from fear to recognition and kinship. These are my favorite parts of the book – the setting, the romance, and the drama of it all.
The strong mythology of the world was also refreshingly original, at least for me. I don’t read a lot based in Greek mythology and Hodge puts the gods and their stories in a nice context. What didn’t work so well was how the worldbuilding was paced. There was a bit of an info dump in the first chapter that felt clunky and a bit overwhelming. I had to re-read passages in order to fully understand the context. There’s also a twist with regards to Ignifex and his enslaved servant, Shade, a very cool creation of a character. It wasn’t really a twist but I think it was meant to be. Nyx’s triangle of tangled romantic feelings also felt a bit forced. She kisses Shade and declares love within days of being in the castle. That felt forced. The story could have been equally as strong had Nyx not felt romantically towards Shade; the triangle is unnecessary, even with the twist. It felt a bit half-hearted. Finally, the ending…It was underwhelming. It felt too neat, too easy, too nicely wrapped up. It also reminded me of the 80’s film Made in Heaven.
Regardless of the issues, CRUEL BEAUTY had great moments of romance, mystery, and conflict. I recommend it for YA fantasy readers though more for lovers of mythology than fairytales. 3.5 howls!