January 28, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty

****Copy received for an honest review through Netgalley.****

Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe, book 1) by Rosamund Hodge


Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Edition Reviewed: Paperback
Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Goodreads: Cruel Beauty

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.


“If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.” - Nyx

It feels so strange to finish a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and be so . . . awed. It's just that I haven't been this in love with a BatB retelling in forever! It was so nice not to simply read another version of the same story that had little tweaks, or a modernized version for the sake of modernizing it. No, Cruel Beauty was something wholly unique, and it borrows lightly from the classic BatB tale. There's a magical mixture of Greek mythology, questionable morals, and a beautiful world.

“I wasn't born to be saved.” - Nyx

Nyx is this stories Bell/Beauty. What I love is that Cruel Beauty doesn't attempt to make this story about looks, how she's so plain or really stunning. No. What the story tries to stay focused on is what's inside of Nyx. The daughter of a man who made a deal with the Gentle Lord (AKA Ignifex), and was chosen to pay the price. Trained to kill Ignifex who will one day be her husband. Nyx isn't a sweet and innocent girl. She didn't willingly go into this arrangement she did it out of duty. Like the original she loves books and knowledge, but for the most part that's were it ends. The references to the “poison” inside her that makes her a bad daughter for resenting her fate and family, and the anger that's a temperament to being human is very realistic. What's more is that Nyx recognizes theses faults, and constantly berates herself for not being more dutiful and self sacrificing. All of these emotions are so relatable and a lot of the time I kept wanting to shout at the poor girl that she was right to feel that way. Maybe she should question everything! In a lot of ways Nyx recognizing those flaws made her stronger and weaker. More naive at times.

“Because despite all the poison in my heart, I knew it was not Astraia's fault that Father had picked her over me.” - Nyx

Cruel Beauty plays well on the fact that not everything is black and white. From the fools who go to make deals with Ignifex in the hope that their selfish wishes will be granted. Even when one is to kill the husband of a woman a man wants, all to make her happy. Sure the husband was beating the woman, but what right did that man have to wish another dead. In the end he would get what he wanted, another mans wife. Would he have made the same deal if the wife wasn't being abused? The price of every wish granted always ends in tragedy, all of the stories and people know this. Yet Ignifex is the villain for having to make these bargains. No one is innocent and by the end of the book I felt every character had poison in their hearts. Even the beloved Astraia who was supposed the be the sweet innocent sister. A character I would have loved to explore especially when Nyx is finally reunited with her sister and it's so easy to see the cruelty spilling out. That just as Nyx had put on an act of an obedient daughter, Astraia pretended to be an angel.

“Don't look at the shadows too long, or a demon might look back.”

A father who could selfishly bargain for children because he believed it was his wife’s wish, never considering that there might be a reason she couldn't conceive. Then bargaining away the precious life of his own child, and eventually entering into a relationship with his dead wife's sister. Poison. Every character met it could be argued has some kind of poison. Or shadow. To me that's were the real depth of Cruel Beauty come into play. The people crying out monster, and the monster who understands what he is, may not have it all straight. Human is to  have a little monster in us all, some bigger then others.

The world of Arcadia is fascinating. An island that is covered in a parchment sky and only a dark void below. The realization of the Greek mythology in this world is fantastic. The cruelty, cleverness, and prices of Greek myth has always been a huge fascination of mine. To see it fully realized in a BatB retelling is awesomesauce! Nyx is sent in to kill The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, and to free Arcadia. However, the very plan that her father has prepared her to use may not be the key, or are the monsters lying? . So begins the bigger riddle as to what truly happened and if killing Ignifex can free the people.

“And every other time I'd loved somebody, it had twisted in my heart. I couldn't risk it with him.” - Nyx

In the end any BatB story is about the romance. It's so wonderful how it all develops. At first I pissed and moaned because I thought another spotty love triangle had been stuck in a great book. It quickly becomes apparent it's not a true  love triangle, it's a mystery. Nyx's eventual love for a “beast” is probably one of the best portrayals I've ever seen. Self-doubt, loathing, and finally acceptance tempered by shame. After all the beast of this book is a demon. Every emotion felt more vibrant then some of the adult love stories I've read. The fact that in most BatB retellings the beauty is completely fine with falling in love with a monster, that sweet innocence is charming. Cruel Beauty isn't about innocence. All of the shadows only enhance the passion, love, and choices. Would you take the seemingly perfect prince, or the beast who is the only one that can understand the real you? The one person you don't lie to besides yourself.

“I think I'm wicked enough to love a demon.” - Nyx

“I love you more than any other creature, because you are cruel, and kind, and alive.” - Ignifex

Readers will probably each take something different away. In fact, after talking with another reader about Cruel Beauty. I had come away with the message that no one is truly innocent and that even monsters can have kindness. She then told me that she hadn't gotten that at all. She was convinced the story was about how the innocent should be protected so that “poison” didn't slip in and harm them. Heck, maybe this book doesn’t even have message and we were both over thinking it! Either way Cruel Beauty gets ya thinking.

Cruel Beauty dabbles in inner monsters, nothing overly scary but more human. Showing that denial and how even a simple choice can have horrible consequences. The love story feels more authentic with both the beauty and the beast humanized. Showing that both have goodness and kindness in them. Cruel Beauty will keep you thinking about not only human nature, but the mysteries. If you're a good guesser, and you know your myths the plot will probably be easy to crack. Even with that it still manages to dish some tricks out. BatB has always been a story of how the girl saves the man, but what happens after a heavy dose of betrayal is thrown into the mix?

“But we'll pretend we know how to love.” - Nyx

Sexual Content: Kissing and making out. Classic we’re having sex, but it cuts out until after stuff. (Been a while since I’ve read YA books that still do that.)

5/5- Fabulous, a beautiful obsession!

Previous book(s) in series:
Reviewed on BW: Amazon: Goodreads:
Cruel Beauty (1)
Gilded Ashes (1.5)

Cruel Beauty (1)
Gilded Ashes (1.5)

Cruel Beauty (1)
Gilded Ashes (1.5)

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