Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

February 13, 2014 5 stars, Book Review 22 ★★★★★

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.

Cruel Beauty really captures the essence of what so many of us likely think when we hear the word ‘fairytale.’ What you will get is exactly that a unique fairytale with a touch of darkness, a delicious dose of the forbidden and a a painful yet exquisite romance. This is most definitely a romantic fantasy where the romance takes the lead in plot focus, secondary to the mystery of the heroines quest.

I have to admit when I picked up Cruel Beauty expecting a young adult book but while Nyx the heroine is a teenager, in her time/place she is of marrying age. So, considering she is married off at the very beginning it set a more mature tone for things. She still has many of the traits of a teenager but they are also tempered with very adult characteristics. I found this balance delightful. I’ve always had a soft spot for young adult fiction and this book toes the line between YA and Adult very nicely.

The world building! Oh I simply loved it! I think this Arcadia must be in the time period when the Greek gods were worshiped, but this country somehow has been locked away from the rest of the world and now is ruled by the ‘Gentle Lord’, a demon that strikes bargains with humans. And we all know what happens when you make a deal with the devil, that you’re going to get burned.

Nyx’s father made such a deal before she was born. His wife was despairing over not being able to have children and so he struck a bargain so that she could have healthy children. His payment – one of the children he would have to give up as a bride to the Gentle Lord, to dwell with him in his castle when she came of age. Of course you know there had to be a castle and what a fabulous castle it is! But I am distracting myself, so how did Nyx’s father get burned? If you ask for your wife to bear happy children and forget to ask that your wife also be healthy as well, the devil would like say – that’s your fault now isn’t it?

Nyx grows up knowing she is the lesser loved daughter that will be given up to the Gentle Lord while her beautiful sister is the one that love and affection is lavished upon. Perhaps this twists and deadens her heart? She tries to be the dutiful daughter keeping her true feelings locked away from everyone believing herself to be wicked for feeling the way she does about her lot in life. I think this brings up a very interesting point of nature versus nurture. One could wonder just how much of your environment and upbringing determines the type of person you become? I won’t spoil things but this exact point struck me as important when it came to the true hearts of Nyx and her sister.

The Romance!

Sometimes I like to tell myself that I’m not a huge fan of romance – but at those times I must be deluding myself because I absolutely adored the chemistry and romance in Cruel Beauty. I was swept up in the back and forth banter, each stolen caress and kisses enjoyed against Nyx’s better judgement. What can I say I was completely befuddled and didn’t set this down until I was finished.

What we ultimately have is a misunderstood and lesser loved girl, a forbidding castle, a villain, a prince and oh lets not forget a stepmother, and sisterly issues, lots of them. When you think about it these are all common elements you’ll find in many fairytales and not always are they used well. But in Cruel Beauty I absolutely loved how this re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast wove these elements and so much more into an entirely new and really heart-wrenching story. I can’t recommend it highly enough to lovers of romance and fairytale retellings!

Cruel Beauty

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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22 Responses to “Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge”

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I hope you win the giveaway – I think even if you don’t like it that your wife will. Its very much a romance and I think it helped that I knew going in it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling that I expected the romance.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      Me too, me too too!! I’d say its currently among my fav romances of 2014 so far – we’ll see how the year progresses. No doubt though that I would recommend this one to friends.

  1. Charleen

    “Sometimes I like to tell myself that I’m not a huge fan of romance – but at those times I must be deluding myself…”

    This is actually something I argue with myself about all the time. I’ve finally realized… I don’t like romance when I’m not reading the book for the romance. In something like this, I can sit back and enjoy it (as long as it’s well-done) because it’s obviously a huge part of the story. It’s the books where I’m more interested in the rest of the plot that I get tired of authors spending time on a romance that feels tacked on.
    Charleen recently posted…Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts – #9My Profile

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      You hit the nail absolutely on the freaking head with that comment. I KNEW going in that this was going to have a romantic central focus so I enjoyed it. However, in my other genre fiction when I’m expecting more themes or tech or world building etc and the romance eats up too much then I would get upset. So I know exactly what you mean.

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      It’s so nice when you find someone that loved a book as much as you did isn’t it!? I loved the world building as well…but mostly I think it was the falling in love and them feeling like they were still loved despite the things that they felt were evil about themselves.