Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Published January 28, 2014 by Balzer & Bray
Genres Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Cruel Beauty is based on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast and also contains a lot of mythology. Since she was born, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom because of a bargain her father made with him. She has also been training to kill him since she was 9 years old. Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her from her fate and on her 17th birthday, Nyx marries the Gentle Lord, Ignifex. Her plan is to seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle and break the 900 year old curse on her land and people. But Ignifex is not what she expected and neither is his castle; which is a complex, shifting mae of rooms. As Nyx searches for a way to free her country and people by uncovering Ignifex’ secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Nyx must soon decide which is more important, the future of her kingdom or the man she was never supposed to love.
So I haven’t read many re-tellings and this was honestly not what I expected at all. I keep wavering between a rating of 3 or 4 stars and I think I have settled on 3.5 for several reasons. I really like Nyx’s character most of the time; she is strong, she is brave and she seems independent. I didn’t like some of the “instalove” that occurred between her and Ignifex, however she does list some valid reasons for loving him. I don’t feel like we really get to know any of the characters beyond Nyx, with good reason. Her father, aunt and sister aren’t in large parts of the book and Ignifex’s background story is so complicated that there isn’t really a way to get to know him until the end of the book. This is the first book by the author that I have read and I did really enjoy her writing. The world building she did and the detailed descriptions of the castle are pretty well written. And some of the plot twists and story lines that we come to find at the end of the book are also very well written and a few surprised me, while others I had already figured out much earlier in the book.
What I didn’t enjoy was there is a great deal of mythology in this book, along with Nyx’s land, Arcadia’s magic and a lot of demonology, on top of this being a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. It got to be a bit confusing at times when one of the characters was trying to explain some of it. There also really wasn’t much romance in the book, for it to be called a love story. The story is more focused on Nyx exploring the castle and its shifting, magical rooms trying to figure out how to break the curse. On a positive note, this is certainly a young adult book that I would allow younger readers to read because it contains no sex at all except for a mention that it happens. Thinking about it a day after I finished it, I really did enjoy the book, the author’s writing, the characters the world building, the magic and the wonderful descriptions of the castle. However, it just wasn’t one of those books you finish and think, “Wow.” I might be biased because I also read A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury this month which were pretty much the best fantasy books that I have ever read. However, if you enjoy other re-tellings and books of the fantasy genre, I believe you will enjoy this book as well. And it is a stand alone, although there is a novella marked as a follow up to this book, it is also a stand alone that does not contain the same characters. The author’s website says she does not plan to write a sequel to this book either. The ending works for either the book being a stand alone or the author writing a sequel. Happy reading!