Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray 2014
Length: 346 pages
Source/Format: Bought/Hardcover
From GoodReads:

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.
My Rating:

From the moment I read the plot synopsis for Cruel Beauty, I knew it was a book I absolutely had to get my hands on. I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings and the tale of Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite. I'm not sure why exactly--maybe it's my affinity for bad boys who are good at heart, or my love for stories where love overcomes all obstacles. Whatever the reason, I needed this book in my life and, thankfully, it did not disappoint!

Cruel Beauty is such a unique retelling in that it takes the traditional Beauty and the Beast story and turns it on its head. The "Beauty" in this story, Nyx, is not described as the most beautiful, kind-hearted girl in the land; rather, she is outshined by her beloved sister, Astraia, and describes herself as having "poison in her heart." Nyx is not the docile, dutiful daughter happy to sacrifice herself for her father's mistakes. Instead, she intensely resents her father for so callously sacrificing her to the kingdom's evil ruler, the Gentle Lord, and secretly wishes Astraia could take her place. For these reasons, I absolutely loved Nyx. The fact that she was so angry and resentful of her situation and so willing to fight back again the demon that essentially ruined her life made her such an interesting character.

The other element that sets this retelling apart is the combination of a traditional fairy tale with Greek mythology. The land of Arcadia is entrenched in the beliefs of this mythology and it was fascinating to read about. If you're familiar at all with Greek mythology, then you'll know how the gods love to toy with man--and the poor people of Arcadia are not exempt from the gods whims, especially those of the "Kindly Ones," who are somewhat like the Fates, and anything but kind; they revel in striking tricky bargains with mortals and relish their inevitable downfall.

Now, for the bad boy himself, Ignifex. Ignifex, Ignifex, Ignifex. What can I say about him except damn, Rosamund, you know how to write a character who plays with my emotions!

I went from hating the guy to being totally intrigued by him, to hating him even more, and then, finally, to loving him to death. Loving him so much that that last third of the book nearly killed me with heartbreak. What's so great about Ignifex's story is that Hodge never lets you forget the fact that he has done awful things, acting as a broker for the Kindly Ones and tricking humans into entering into foolhardy bargains with horrible consequences. While he does try to redeem himself, his good deeds do not cover up all the wrong he has done--something that becomes harder and harder for Nyx to accept as she falls in love with him. In this story, though, love does not excuse wrongdoing. Hodge talks about this more in a great post over at Ivy Book Bindings, and this particular quote sums it up perfectly: "So you’re in love. That’s wonderful. It doesn’t change the consequences of what your wicked-hot boyfriend once did. How do you deal with the things that love doesn’t fix?"  No matter how much Nyx loves Ignifex, it doesn't change the fact that for the nine hundred years before he met her, he was a bad dude. And the rest of story deals with the consequences of his past and how Nyx must ultimately decide which is more important: loving a monster or saving her people from the man she loves.

In short, I love this book.

I can't wait to read Gilded Ashes and I hope we see more writing from Rosamund Hodge very soon.


  1. I really can't wait to pick this book up! Firstly, the cover. Absolutely stunning. But when I heard it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I was even more excited. In addition to loving fairy tale retellings, I also adore mythology, so hearing you talk about that was a bonus. I remember reading one of Rosamund's guest posts during the blog tour about how she saw all these stories. It's awesome! I'm glad you loved it; I'm definitely going to have to pick it up soon. Awesome review!

  2. Yes! The cover is beautiful! It's one of the first things that drew me to the book. And yeah, if you like mythology, you're definitely going to like the book! :)

    Thanks! :D


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