ARC Review – Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

November 7, 2013 Reviews 1 ★★★★

Title: Cruel Beauty

Author: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 352, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 4.05 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Content Rating: Adult or Mature YA (Lots of references to sex, though it is not directly shown)

Summary from 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 is a really unique take on the Beauty and the Beast tale (one of my favorites), full of darkness, danger and mythology with a twist.

Nyx has known since an early age what was expected of her – she was destined to marry and defeat the demon lord, Ignifex – and to die in the process.  Her father had made a bargain with the beast before she was ever born and she was the sacrifice.  Because of this, she has grown up bitter and angry, feeling unloved and unwanted.  Duty is her only option.  But when Nyx gets to the castle and meets her new husband, she finds that the master plan may not be so successful after all and that everything she’s been told about the demon lord and her world’s history may not be entirely true.  But even as Nyx begins to fall in love with her captor, she realizes that she may still have to destroy him.

The negatives:
  • Slow start.  The first third of this book was a little bit slow for me.  It wasn’t until the romance started between Nyx and Ignifex that I really felt completely engaged with the book.  This may have been because Nyx was very bitter and unlikeable at the beginning of the book.  This was completely purposeful and actually kind of central to the book (Nyx is not an innocent, blushing beauty), but it made it a little bit hard for me to connect to Nyx and to really enjoy the story at first.  I also wasn’t a huge fan of Shade, and didn’t quite get Nyx’s attraction to him, so I was happier when that wasn’t the main romance brewing.  It wasn’t until Nyx really started to see the world a bit differently (and with less negativity) that I was able to truly relax and enjoy the story (but this is my own issue, since I just tend to not connect with characters I don’t like).
  • Figured out the climactic twist.  I had figured out the central, climactic twist in this book pretty early on (almost from the very beginning) and was just kind of waiting for the characters to catch up.  Luckily, there were other twists in the book that I didn’t see coming, so there were still plenty of surprises!
What I enjoyed:
  • Nyx.  While I mentioned that I wasn’t a huge fan of Nyx’s bitterness at the beginning of the book, I could definitely understand it and sympathize with her.  And the bitterness was necessary for Nyx’s transformation.  That doesn’t mean that Nyx transforms into a sweet, charming heroine who learns the true meaning of love and saves the world with her kiss, though.  No, Nyx is complicated – flawed, even in the end.  In fact, that is one of the major themes of the book – that we are flawed and that our flaws and our weaknesses are an important part of us too.
  • Ignifex.  Ignifex was such a compelling leading man.  He is definitely a villain, but a complex villain.  Is he actually evil?  Is he truly to blame for who he has become?  The mystery of who Ignifex is and what motivates him makes him an incredibly intriguing character.  At first, you can’t imagine why you would want Nyx to fall for this man.  But, as the book goes on, you start to see the attraction – and you find that you can’t resist Ignifex either!
  • The dark tone.  I loved the dark tone of this book.  This was not a happy-go-lucky fairy tale.  Instead it is a story filled with brutality and dangerous mythology.  Nyx’s story is never easy, which makes it all the more interesting!
Cruel Beauty is a fantastically dark and intriguing fairy tale retelling.  Highly recommended!   4/5 stars.

 

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Edelweiss and Balzer & Bray in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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