Series: Cruel Beauty Universe
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28th, 2014
Genres: fantasy, retellings, young adult
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The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom's mountaintop, nothing is as she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband.Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can't resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who's gotten in her way by stealing her heart.For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.
I need someone to hold my hand through this review because I am not okay. I am NOT OKAY.
I have to tell you, I kind of hated Cruel Beauty when I started reading it, so much that I hit it with the DNF stamp within 20 pages. But Jessie and Blythe convinced me that I needed to give it a second chance and I am so, so happy that I did. Cruel Beauty starts of slow and kind of sloppy, but the ending delivers one hell of a punch and it is so worth the wait.
If there is one thing I can say this book has going for it, that would be originality. I’ve never read a book like this one – not even close. The world-building, though somewhat confusing at first, is so genius and deftly woven. It gives me writerly envy, for real. This book is a strange mixture of Greek mythology, Beauty and the Beast, a little bit of Bluebeard, and with a little bit of Inception thrown on top as a garnish. As each new piece of the puzzle was given to me, I was just more and more amazed by what Hodge was able to do with this book.
I also fell madly in love with the characters, particularly Ignifex and Astraia. Ignifex, the Lord of Bargains started out as the requisite Big Bad. He is responsible for all the horrors in Arcadia, and Nyx’s whole life has been devoted to undoing him. But once she finally marries him and moves into the ruined castle with him, it becomes obvious that there is so much more beneath his surface. I could tell within meeting him pretty much what the twists were going to be regarding his character, but it was still fascinating to watch it all unravel, and I loved every second he was on the page. Astraia, Nyx’s sister, also starts out with a similar lack of depth. Later on, though, we get to know her much better and we get to see that there are many different sides to her and she is quite skilled at playing it close to the vest.
Nyx, however? I didn’t like her nearly as much as the other two characters. I found her quite whiny, especially in the first half of the book. Probably ten pages could be knocked off the length of this novel if we cut out all the instances of her complaining about/referencing her mission or fate. I did love her anger, though, and her refusal to keep it quiet. She was quite a spitfire and mouthed off constantly – her banter with Ignifex was especially delightful. But ultimately, I felt like she was just a pawn on a chessboard being pushed around by plot. I was equally unimpressed by the love triangle she found herself in, and the word “love” being thrown around within only a few days of meeting one of the love interests.
What really sealed the deal for me was the ending. All throughout Cruel Beauty the stakes rose higher and higher, and I became more and more attached to the characters. I was actually kind of upset, not seeing a way out of their predicament. Every tiny thread of the story came together in the ending, leaving Rosamund Hodge an author I am desperate to read again, and this novel one that begs to be reread.