Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Published by: Balzer + Bray
About The Book from Goodreads
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.
Cruel Beauty has got so many different plot lines and tropes going on, it could’ve easily been a very confusing and frustrating book to read…I mean, this book has Greek mythology undertones (Greek tragedy and lore, Hermes, Hades and Persephone…), it incorporates parallel universe and time-traveling themes as well as being a Beauty and the Beast re-telling. But Hodge managed to weave together two of my most favorite things: classic fairy tales and Greek elements in a YA fantasy novel that can only be described as one of a kind in its genre.
At some point in the book, it did cross my mind that this might very well be yet another story about a heroine falling in love with her enemy, who turns out to be a misunderstood, kind-hearted being. Fortunately, I was wrong. This story is not only about love and acceptance, learning how to balance the opposing forces between duty and desire, it is also about acknowledging and embracing every part of your being, especially the most shameful, wicked parts. It’s about the princess being able to fall in love with the Beast, not because of his redeeming qualities, but because his wickedness calls to her own. Because sometimes the princess, despite her beauty, can be quite beastly too.
I’d never read Hodge’s work before, but Cruel Beauty has definitely guaranteed I’ll be checking out anything by her. The pacing seemed perfectly suited for the plot, each reveal carefully unfolding in time with the characters’ development throughout the novel. I must say, this book is descriptive. Every setting, scene and feeling is described in detail, which is something I’ve personally found to be a deal-breaker on occasion because the author leaves too little to the reader’s imagination. In this case, however, it’s the reason I fell in love with Hodge’s writing. I felt present in the main character’s journey every step of the way.
As for the characters, Nyx – the MC – who at times reminded me of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, can be at times a bitter person hard to grow attatched to, but there is no denying she is one of the most realistic heroines I’ve ever read. Her emotions, decisions and reactions are all so very flawed and human, as well as her antagonist’s and love-interest, Ignifex.
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