Official Description: 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.
When it comes to fairy tale retellings, they are a dime a dozen, especially in YA. So if you’re looking for something new and fresh, you might steer clear of those titles. But if you’re like me and obsessed with Beauty and the Beast, you’ve most likely read many retelling of La Belle et la Bête. (Yes, I own Beastly, and no, I’m not just talking about the book.) This tale may be as old as time, but I can’t ever get sick of it and have found authors put a pretty precious spin on the formula. Therefore, when Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty came to my attention, I HAD to read it. It sounded way different from other retellings with an emphasis on fantasy. I was very curious about it, and when I finally had the chance to sit down and read it, well… it wasn’t all that I hoped it would be.
Cruel Beauty creates a new and unique world within its story, but never fully realizes it. In that regard, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Nyx started out as a fascinating character, dealing with the lifelong resentment she grew toward her father and sister. Her feelings toward her father are more black and white as he’s the one who chose her over her sister to give to the Demon Lord. But it gets a little gray where her sister is concerned, as the happy, naïve and sensitive girl will never be able to understand the fear and jealousy Nyx often feels. I liked how Nyx acknowledged these “cruel” aspects of her character and made her journey into married life all the more interesting.
However, it is once Nyx and Ignifex are married and living together that the story becomes a bit murky. Ignifex is a barely tolerable character to begin with. I didn’t trust him, and I didn’t think that Nyx ever would either. So when the redemption arc comes into play, it doesn’t come off as believable. The confusion with Shade, an additional player in this warped romance, made it less organic. Overall, what should have been a very romantic ending was a bit underwhelming.
As I mentioned earlier, the world created in this novel helps this retelling stand apart from the rest. Yet, there wasn’t enough world building. Isn’t this a standalone book? It seems so. I had hoped to learn more about the world and what I did find out was confusing and left me with more unanswered questions. It has the potential to be a great fantasy world, and despite my issues with this book, I would be curious to see where the author takes it.
Cruel Beauty may not have lived to my expectations, but Rosamund Hodge is a good writer that manages to establish a foundation to an interesting fantasy world. If Cruel Beauty is all we get from it, that would be a disappointment.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge will be available wherever books are sold on January 28th.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (January 28, 2014)
Length: 352 pages (Hardcover)
Source: Digital Review Copy
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Completed: January 2014