Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
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.
What I Liked:
Ahh, I can't even begin to describe how much I truly enjoyed this book! It seems like the past few books I have read have been FANTASTIC! Now I'm worried that the next one will be not-so-great. I suppose I'll cross that bridge when I get there. But that doesn't change the fact that I loved this book! I wasn't expecting to love it. When I first heard of this book a few months ago, I was all like, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR ME! I mean, come on. The comparison to one of my all-time favorite books, Graceling!? But then I started seeing some reviews and Goodreads status updates, and I was getting discouraged. So, my standards dropped.
Well, whatever. I really enjoyed this fantasy novel. It took a little bit of patience to get into the story, but once I was in, I was swept away. The writing, the plot, the romance... everything was magnificent. Well, almost everything - obviously, no book is perfect. But you get the idea.
Nyx has been set up to marry the demon lord Ignifex since birth. Her father made a deal with the lord, and Nyx must marry Ignifex. Nyx has always resented her father for making this deal. She resented her sister, for being the perfect daughter who didn't have to spend her life preparing to marry and hopefully kill the demon lord. Nyx had a whole bunch of bitterness and hatred stored inside of her, and what better way to get that aggression out than to be shipped off to the demon lord's home as his new wife, and try to kill him? Poor Nyx.
The writing style of this story is gorgeous. It flows beautifully, and captivated me while I was reading. There are some books that have such choppy writing, and I want to strangle something because the writing style seriously detracts from the story. Not so with this author's writing. The writing style flowed well with the story, and really lent to the simple and yet complex nature of the story.
The plot is immensely entertaining and interesting. Nyx spends her time in the house exploring the various doors and trying to find a way to kill Ignifex and free her people. Except things aren't that simple, because Ignifex might not be the one at fault. And Nyx begins to pity him, and eventually, fall in love with him.
I LOVED the scenes that featured both Nyx and Ignifex. From the start, I could see that scenes with both of them would be highly amusing and entertaining. Nyx is hellbent on killing Ignifex, and Ignifex thinks she is hilarious. I love the nature of their relationship, even when things change. Hodge keeps their chemistry and romance fresh and fiery, yet sweet and beautiful. It's one of those romances that creeps up on you, very subtly, and wedges into your heart. I loved this romance.
I really like Nyx. She is a strong-willed heroine, and I could see why she is different from the other wives. The whole book, I was hoping she would find a way to save Ignifex. I totally understood her point-of-view, in terms of her life and the bargain and loving Ignifex. So much had been taken away from her, and in the end, Ignifex had to be one of them as well? Nyx did not have it easy in this book.
Of course, I like Ignifex as well. I felt so, so bad for him throughout the book. He has such an easygoing nature, but it is all a mask. I don't want to go into details, but for hundreds of years, he has been treated in a way that he did not deserved.
This book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and I think it is a very good one. I don't remember if I've ever read any other Beauty and the Beast retellings, but I'll just venture a guess and say that this one is my favorite. And the fact that it keeps with the fantasy genre doesn't hurt - fantasy is my favorite!
There are a lot of Greek mythology references in this book, which is totally okay with me! I'm a Greek (and Roman) mythology buff - honestly, ANY mythology - so I really liked how Hodge included the mythology in this book. I wish I understood the magic a little better, but it wasn't important enough that I didn't know what was going on. Until the end, that is.
The ending. I am a little bit confused as to how the ending came about, but I really like the ending. It's a fitting ending, truly fitting to this story. I love one of the lines in the end - "The darkness and the shadows, they both have it in their hearts and they deserve to have nothing else" (ARC, 336). To me, that line is so perfect. The people that the line is referring to are riddled with imperfections and "darkness" in their hearts, and they deserve what they get. This is why the ending is so great - because Hodge finds the best ending for this story, and for Nyx and Ignifex. It's not perfect, and it's not all rainbows and sunshine. But it is just right for this story. Well done!
What I Did Not Like:
This might just be me, but the last part of the book - the last 25% or so - confused me. I barely understand what exactly was unraveling, what Nyx was finding out, what was all of a sudden making so much sense. She seemed to be understanding what was happening, but I was very slow to catch up. I *think* I understand most of everything, but the climax, and then the ending, happened very quickly. It was rushed, and I felt so behind in trying to comprehend what was going on.
Again, I *think* I understand everything that happened. I think I know what happened with Ignifex and Shade and Nyx and the Kindly Ones and whatnot. I might re-read this one, to be sure (it wouldn't be a punishment, to re-read this book!).
Would I Recommend It:
I would highly recommend this novel, especially to fantasy lovers, or readers who enjoy fairy tales or retellings. Also, there is a strong Greek mythology presence in this novel, so if you're a fan of Greek mythology (like me!), then that might appeal to you.
4 stars. A fantastic debut, in my opinion! I can't wait to see what else Hodge has for readers. Hopefully, more standalone awesomeness! Or series awesomeness. Or whatever. You get my point. I'm a fan!
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