by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
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.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I thought it was about time I read another fairytale retelling. I recently acquired this one, and it appealed to me more than some of the other retellings in my TBR pile... so I thought I'd give it a try.
Please, dear author, I want some more...
My favourite thing about this book is the world-building. From what I can tell, this fantasy world is somewhat based on a Britain that was long ago occupied by something akin to a Greco-Roman empire. So, alongside the quaint rural customs of the native peoples, there are also myths and legends drawn directly from Ancient Greece. That's an interesting enough starting point, but then the author threw in some Hermeticism and magic... which helped flesh out the world even more. Ignifex's house is... okay, can I have a house like that? Never mind that I would probably get lost on a daily basis. I just love the idea of some of those rooms; they're just so wonderful to imagine (and would probably be awesome to look at, if this book is ever made into a movie).
It's all a matter of taste...
I have two complaints with this book. The first one is the characters... well, the main character, actually. Nyx is pretty clueless, figuring out the actual relationship between Ignifex and Shade way after she should have. As a result, she comes across as oblivious and stupid, and I felt it was a little insulting to the reader. When something is that obvious, and yet the author keeps trying to prolong the mystery, it gets annoying. Nyx is kind of annoying, anyway. She's not the nicest person (which is relevant to the story), but she's also sort of uneven, waffling between weird feelings of guilt for resenting her family (they basically raised her to be killed by a monster, so her anger is understandable) and feelings of duty toward her demon husband (as if she's been brainwashed by her culture to the point of being fatally submissive). Nyx goes between sparring verbally with Ignifex to these strange, internal monologues about her feelings that seem a bit jarring. I was never entirely sure what sort of a person she was supposed to be.
My second complaint is the ending. After all of the build-up and everything that had been put in place, I thought it was quite weak. Actually, I'm not even sure what happened or why it happened. I don't like finishing a book and then feeling like I need someone to explain the ending to me.
Let's get technical...
For the most part, the writing is pretty strong. I did, however, wonder about all the cat imagery. I thought that it must be significant somehow, since there were so many cat-related metaphors and similes. Perhaps the author just really loves cats.
Aside from a few issues with characterization (and the ending), this is actually a fairly strong fairytale retelling. The story is engaging, the world-building is intelligent, and I had a hard time stopping myself from reading just one more chapter.
In my family, nobody's love had given anything but cruelty and sorrow, and nobody's love had ever stopped giving.
Overall Rating: 3.88 out of 5 ladybugs