Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 2014
Length: 352 pages
Series?: Cruel Beauty Universe #1
Genre: Fantasy Retelling, Romance
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.
Nyx’s father made a deal with the most notorious Gentle Lord, a demon lord, known to twist and turn bargains in his 900 years. Now, Nyx has a duty to her family and her entire world to kill the demon lord. Her resentment runs deep.
Elizabeth Knowleden narrates the audiobook. She has a crisp, steady voice. Whether the accent or dialect, I picked up on it in her speech. It was pleasant and had a lyrical rhythm to it.
Nyx – a young Arcadian woman forced to marry the Gentle Lord
Ignifex – The Gentle Lord or Demon Lord
Shade – a shadowy figure that lives in the castle and comes out at night
“If you start wondering how this house works, you’ll likely go mad. That could be amusing, I suppose. Especially if it’s the kind of madness that causes you to run naked through the hallways. Do feel free to indulge in that anytime.”
The Highs and Lows
- Greek mythology. This world of Arcadia is rich in Greek mythology. While I don’t know very much, it was informative. All the mythology stories are telling. I think they were meant as parallels to hint at the main storyline. But it was also A LOT of information. There was definitely information dump, and it wasn’t always transitioned well. At times I was grappling with how it all fit together.
- Nyx’s background. For all of her life, Nyx’s purpose is to live to kill the Gentle Lord and save Arcadia. Her father struck an ill-fated bargain with him, and Nyx has to live with the consequences. She isn’t groomed and doted on like her sister Astraia, she is trained for the day she will leave her father’s household. Given her upbringing (and no choice in the matter), she is actually a pretty strong individual. Despite her purpose, she stops and thinks before she leaps. Once in the castle, she realizes the pressures that engulf Ignifex and she almost wants to help him instead of destroy him. That shows great character strength, especially in defiance of all she has learned and been raised to be.
- Pacing. Be warned it is excruciatingly slow in the beginning. Things don’t pick up until Ignifex and Shade are introduced.
- Bemoaning. Nyx bemoaned her fate the entire book. It was constantly back to how her family treated her and how her life was ruined due to her predicament, and damn her father for putting her here. I understood clearly the first time. It didn’t need to be repeated multiple times. This detracted from the plot and only seemed to add filler. I seriously considered DNFing the audio for this reason.
- Ignifex. AKA The Demon Lord. He is a classic bad boy, and hated by many. He causes harm and pain with his bargains, always asking for a high price. But little do the Arcadians know he is himself a prisoner as much as they are to his bargains. Ignifex represents the physical side of an individual. Ignifex doesn’t know anything because he is missing the mental side that makes up a person.
- Shade. Shade is indeed like a shadow. He looks strikingly similar to Ignifex, but is a shadowy figure. He represents the mental side of an individual. Shade houses all the memories of Ignifex, but is lacking the physical side to do anything. After a while, Shade creeped me out.
- Weird love triangle. Between Nyx, Ingnifex, and Shade there was this weird love triangle thing. It was strange and unnerved me a little bit. I never knew how much Nyx was going to act upon her feelings. I wasn’t ever sure where Shade was leading Nyx, or how things were going to come about with Ignifex. For that part, the suspense and curiosity got to me…sometimes in a creepy, hair-standing way.
- The Retelling. I can kind of identify the parallels between Beauty and the Beast and this story. It is not an immediate recognitions as a B&tB retelling, but it becomes crystal clear at the end.
- The Ending. It was confusing, to say the least. It was unsatisfying to me.
This book was confusing and quite a bit odd. The beginning was slow, there were sudden brain-dumps of Greek mythology, and the ending was extremely confusing for many readers. I nearly DNFed this book so many times, and the twist ending wasn’t really worth the time I wasted listening.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
When my older brother was thirteen, he started a writing club with his friends and wouldn’t let me join because I was only eight. I promptly swore that I would become a writer and make him sorry.
He still isn’t sorry. (I checked.) But in 2014 I got to publish my first novel with HarperCollins, so I guess everything worked out okay.
Some other facts about me:
I got a B.A. in English at the University of Dallas, and an M.St. in Medieval English at Oxford. Naturally, I moved to Seattle and got a job with computers.