Review - Cruel Beauty

15839984Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: Retellings, fantasy, young adult

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
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 really liked some things about this book, but some things bugged me. I think the Greek mythology woven into the Beauty and the Beast story line trumps the annoyances, though.

Cruel Beauty is a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but with far more elements than the original fairy tale. The world is almost like what you'd end up with if you took Greek myths and English folktales, mixed them up, fed them to people, and then trapped all those people under a bubble. Yeah, that sounds really strange, but that's the gist of how this world works. There is a bit of beauty, some magic, a bit of terror, and lots and lots of secrets.

Nyx has been raised knowing that one day she will be married off to the Demon Lord who presides over her world by making bargains. Her mother was a victim of one such bargain, and Nyx vows revenge. It would be more accurate to say her father vows revenge, but decides to dump the burden on Nyx before settling down with his dead wife's sister and his favorite daughter, Astraia. You can see why Nyx is bitter. I quite enjoyed her anger and her acerbic wit - she wasn't the usual self-sacrificing, pious young maiden that usually populates fairy tales. When Nyx finally meets the infamous demon lord, she is startled to find that he isn't as horrible as the tales make him seem. But there is still something very dark and very wrong in his house, and some secrets are best kept that way...

I really enjoyed the dark tone of this book. The writing was gorgeous, as were the inventive spins on Greek mythology. I especially loved the way Pandora was re-cast. I also really loved the narrator for the audiobook - she had such a unique voice, and the British accent definitely added to the charm of the fairy tale.

I was more than a little annoyed with Nyx though. I really liked that she wasn't a stereotypical "maiden", and I liked that she was headstrong, stubborn, and flawed. What I didn't like was how fickle she was. She kept changing her mind about...well, everything. She loved Shade, then Ignifex, then neither, then both? I don't know, I lost track. And she hated her family, especially her mother. Wait, no, she loved her mother but hated Astraia. Then she hated herself for hating Astraia because deep down she loved her family. But not her dad. Although she still wanted his approval, even if he's the type of slime to sleep with his get the picture. It was infuriating. I also felt like the resolution to the conflict was a little too neat. I feel like there could have been another answer, and while the ending was done well, I personally didn't love it.

Despite my annoyances, this book is still worth reading, if only for the Greek mythology and the beautiful writing. I'd say this is one of the more innovative and interesting retellings I've read.

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  1. Your opinions on this book pretty much mirrored mine. I enjoyed it, but Nyx irritated me.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  2. Yeah, you either relate to Nyx and love her, or you get really annoyed - I haven't seen much middle ground on that haha
    I definitely think this book is worth a shot - let me know what you think if you ever get around to reading!

  3. I feel like Nyx would have been great if she just stuck with her gut and stopped changing her mind about people so often. I liked her personality as a whole, but she really needed some sense knocked into her head.

  4. Michelle {Book Hangovers}June 30, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    I just bought this one...hoping I'll enjoy it. FINGERS CROSSED xoxo

  5. It really just depends on if you like Nyx or not - hopefully you will!

  6. I am definitely intrigued by this book. I've heard a lot of good things but also some mixed reviews


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