REVIEW: Cruel Beauty

BOOK: Cruel Beautyscreenshot_2014-03-26-11-55-47-1
AUTHOR: Rosamund Hodge
PAGES: 346
PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray
MY RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5)

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.

There are so many fairy tale retellings out there, and they are easily some of my favorite books. Even though the genre is extremely hit and miss, Cruel Beauty is a fantastic rendition of Beauty & the Beast.

Nyx has been raised her whole life knowing that on her seventeenth name day she would be married to the Gentle Lord – the demon ruler of her kingdom. She has grown up learning how she must one day defeat him and set free her kingdom from an awful curse. Her sacrifice is for the good of her homeland, and will save her twin sister.

Now the day has arrived, and Nyx meets her fate with buried resentment and a flame in her heart. She will not play the roll of doting housewife, but instead tests the limits of her betrothed, Ignifex. Yet there is something about him that draws Nyx in and she soon realizes there is much more to the curse than the kingdom is aware of. As she uncovers more of Ignifex’s secrets, her feelings are construed. She must choose between the duty to her kingdom and the man she loves.

We’re all rooting for Nyx, because lets face it, she is a fantastically written character. She is brought to life by her flaws, which make her feel so realistic. There is no sugar coating. Nyx has a lot of anger and resentment towards her family – especially her father. She resents him for not showing much affection as she was growing up and never acting like he wanted her to stay. She’s also angry towards her twin sister, who views the world through a pair of rose colored glasses and is free to live a normal life because of Nyx’s sacrifice. Nyx is constantly reflecting upon her actions and she doesn’t always make the right decisions. But she is brave, she is smart, and she is ferocious. There are several points throughout the story where Nyx struggles with the hate she holds in heart because it’s not the type of person she wants to be. Yet the overall message in this book is a sort of “you are who you are, and that’s okay.”

“Ignifex made a soft noise and shifted closer. Without thinking, I slid an arm around him. I knew I should draw back, that I should harden my heart and prepare to destroy him, but lost in the endless hours of the night, I was finally able to admit it: I didn’t want to defeat him. I knew what he was and what he had done, and I still didn’t want to hurt him in any way.”

Once you start reading this story, it’s easy to see why Nyx falls for Ignifex. He’s the forbidden bad boy with quick wit and a good sense of humor. The banter between the two will keep you entertained right from the beginning. Hodge does an incredible job of really building up the layers of her characters. What you see is not necessarily what you get. Everyone has such incredible depth to them. Even Nyx’s sister is not so innocent as she seems. The more you read, the more you learn about each character, and the development of each character is so unexpected.

“‘And don’t tell me you’re sorry, because that would make you a very pitiful assassin.’
‘I’m not an assassin!’ My head snapped up and I saw that he was kneeling right beside me.
‘Oh. I’m sorry. That would make you a very pitiful saboteur who carries a knife for nonviolent purposes.’”

While the characters are what really makes this novel for me, the setting couldn’t have complimented the book more perfectly. Hodge builds up Arcadia with beautiful imagery. I feel like I can perfectly picture the paper sky. I also really love the intricacy of the Gentle Lord’s castle. A living thing, and constantly changing. The idea that it can be defeated by destroying it’s hearts. There is such a uniqueness to this story, and to the world that Hodge has created.

My only qualm? I didn’t feel as though I really understood the complexity of the ending. Yet that didn’t really take away from my overall impression of the story.

If you’re looking for unique spin on a classic story – you’ve found the right book.


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