Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28th, 2014
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Buy on Amazon
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.
I am honestly shocked when it took almost a full year to finally turn to this novel, since this was a 2014 release that made it high on my anticipation list. I loved the cover, and the description was nothing short of enticing. Sadly, this one was placed on the back burner as I straightened out some personal priorities in my life. So it sat, waiting, on my shelves for nearly a year as others raved over the novel.
When everyone provided strong encouragement to read this novel, it was added in to the Valentine slot due to the theme and the gorgeous cover.
The anticipation was bigger than the story, and I wish I had enjoyed this one more. I was shocked at the finish when I didn’t feel a strong like or dislike for this novel, just mild irritation of some missed opportunities, while feeling happy that there is a novel that celebrates the imperfections of people and their love. I’m not sorry that I picked this one for the V-day line up.
“I had been waiting, all my life, for someone undeceived to love me.”
Interesting Yet Bothersome Characters. This was a problematic issue personally during the entire book. I could sympathize with the struggles of the main and supporting characters, but the constant stream of whining and unfounded, clueless assumptions, especially by Nyx, just shredded through my sympathy and destroyed my dental work as I ground my teeth together in frustration. I could identify with Nyx’s low self esteem and understand her compulsive thoughts regarding her family’s approval. I face some of the same issues. However, it was just constant and ongoing throughout the entire novel. Virtually every page had her constantly whining about her lot in life, to the point where it was feeling more forced than true, almost like the character is trying to convince herself that her beliefs are a reality. Maybe this is an unreliable narrator, but there is only so much I can swallow before it the nausea and annoyance sets in.
Outside of that, the cast seemed a bit rough, which was oddly a positive attribute of the novel. They each had their moments, more or less. The Gentle Lord took on a lazy, enticing demon role and rose to the occasion, and the other side of the complicated love triangle actually had a bit of substance, even when you overlook the borderline instalove with one of the two choices (which does seem to even out later in the book).
Nyx’s family was…horrible, to say the least. Like I mentioned before, Nyx was justified in her injured ego by the hands of her family members. Nyx’s sister was a bit troublesome. It was difficult to really nail down her characterization. Her transformation was hard to believe. Just when you think you have her pieces together, she changes directions and shows a new side. Nyx’s father and aunt filled the role of “evil, uncaring parental figures.”
I tolerated the characters, but I certainly didn’t enjoy them.
That’s Amore. It might come across, after the last section, that I did not enjoy this novel. I can safely say that there were some enjoyable aspects of Cruel Beauty. Even though I had some complaints about the characters, I did actually enjoy the romance.
It was built off of something other than the attraction to god-like abs and unearthly good looks, which seems to be a current plague in YA fiction. The Gentle Lord and Nyx start out with disinterest from one party and pure hatred from the other, which slowly develops into a romance that I could actually believe. They both find common ground, both sides looking for just one person to accept them as they are. While Nyx might be a tad intolerable, it did warm my heart when her internal dialog discussed how she found someone who loved her, flawed and jaded. Someone actually accepted her as a package deal, understanding that she wasn’t perfect, and she was better for it. Hooray for the message that love isn’t granted to only the perfect, confident and the coolly indifferent, but everyone, when they’re willing to share a part of their slightly blackened hearts, can still find someone willing to see past it all.
Aside from the romance, the theme of love and acceptance extends outside of intimate romance. The two main characters seek out different forms of love, which does place a nice spin on the entire message. Not only does Nyx wish to believe that someone might love her, flawed and all, she also yearns for the family-oriented affection and endearment. Bravo for including different types of love!
To Retell or Not To Retell. This book was toted as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I never really saw that archetype come through in the story. There were different pieces of different tales shining through, but one type did not dominate over the others. It was nice to see the Greek tales woven into the story. It helped build the book as almost an AU Earth setting, where the Greek myths were history instead of fables. Using Hermes in a way that he is rare represented and providing some new details to the Prometheus and Pandora myths placed a refreshing spin on the Greek inspiration.
Monkeying Around. Another fascinating theme of the story was the concept of bargains and wishes. One of my favorite tales is the often-interpreted story of the Monkey’s Paw – where you can’t get something for nothing. This is a very vital element that made the story pop with morality and realism. The paradox of power and selfless added a bit of meat to the bones of the novel. The philosophical discussion of wishes and bargains flavored the plot, encouraging an intellectual angle regarding the story.
World Building In a Bottle. It would be wrong not to mention the fantastic description of the house inside the novel, and how it added a wonderfully magical element to the arc. It reminded me a bit of Howl’s Moving Castle, a favorite of mine, and I found myself very wrapped up in the description of the house and the logic of the enchantment.
Hit Repeat. The novel did depend quite a bit on repetition. The monologue seemed to cycle in a pattern of daddy issues, mariticide , lashing out, and swallowing sadness.
The End is Nigh. Ending was anti-climatic and a bit predictable. The entire twist was very transparent from the start.
What’s On the Outside. “Her mission was to kill him. Her destiny was to love him”.
Gag. Although, I do love this cover, the tagline is horrible
An interesting story with a compelling romance story line falls victim to the simplistic and annoying story. You want to like it so much, but you also wanted it to end to just put an end to the constant moaning from Nyx. The novel is enjoyable and inventive, and the world building and the mythology will draw you in, while minor details unravel your nerves. The strong points seem to even out the weaker points. Overall, this book is a nice change of pace from the other archetypes of love-hate prisoner stories.