Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Written by: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Pages: 342, hardcover
Series: standalone
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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

 

LetsTalk

I am very into fairy tale retellings. I am also into heroines who are not very nice people. Consequently, I knew from the beginning that I would be very into this book.

One element that sets this book apart from other Beauty and the Beast retellings is the beauty character, Nyx. Far from the kind, patient, loving heroine we usually tend to see in such stories, she is bitter and angry about her fate, and as the title suggests, she is capable of being very cruel. Her awareness of her faults and her single-minded determination to fulfill her goal further develop her into a very interesting character and an excellent protagonist.

Other things I loved about this book include the use of Greek mythology in the world-building, the author’s ability to genuinely creep me out, and, of course, the easy banter and development of the relationship between Nyx and the beast character, Ignifex. Hodge’s writing is bold and vivid and her sense of atmosphere is impeccable.

I wouldn’t say Cruel Beauty is a perfect book, necessarily, but it was perfect for me. If you like your fairy tales dark and twisted, I highly recommend this one.

 

Didn'tWork

There were times when Nyx’s narration tended towards the side of repetitive. It didn’t bother me too much, but there were points where I had to put the book down and whisper, “Yes, Nyx, we know.”

Certain choices that Nyx made felt a little abrupt. They sort of made sense, and I could understand why she acted the way she did, but I still would have liked some more of a lead-up.

There is a bit of a love triangle in the first half of the book. There is also some insta-love, which I found intensely frustrating. However, the ‘love triangle’ is not what it initially appears to be, and certain explanations and reveals in the second half of the book helped to ease over my frustration.

DidWork

I loved the darkness of the characters and the world. There was one scene in particular, at the turning point of the book, involving  demons and a very creepy song, that was so incredibly chilling and not at all what I was expecting. Hodge absolutely does not shy away from making her world dark and terrifying.

As I mentioned before, both Nyx and Ignifex are flawed and compelling. I loved Nyx’s anger, defiance and ferocity, as well as Ignifex’s humor, unapologetic self-awareness, and the sense of mystery surrounding him. I felt the chemistry radiating from the two characters with their first interaction, and it only deepened as the book progressed. These are two people who understand each other’s darkness and love each other all the same. It’s not a typical romance, and it’s not for everyone, but from the moment I saw where it was going, I was 1000% hooked, and the way the story was resolved felt very satisfying.

There is also a sister relationship! A complex, painful sister relationship were both sisters must reevaluate their views of each other! Honestly, it’s as if this book knows me.

The plot was unique and intricate, and while I found one of the Big Reveals just a little bit predictable, I loved watching everything unfold. I was very impressed with the author’s ideas, the amount of work she put into making everything come together. There was a sense of intensity throughout the book that made me cry and laugh and sent goosebumps down my arms and constantly kept me reading.

Pickup

Absolutely give this one a try! Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales, and I loved this book’s intriguing, complex spin on the classic story. I will definitely be reading the author’s upcoming books.

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