Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
On the Shelves: Young Adult> Fantasy/Re-tellings
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. (Goodreads 2014)
Cruel Beauty was one of my most anticipated books of 2014. I got completely drawn into it by that absolutely gorgeous cover ( I mean, really take a second and look at it properly, absolutely beautiful, isn’t it?). I have read and enjoyed other retellings of Beauty and the Beast, some of which I will recommended at the end of this review for those who yearn for more retellings, so I was going into this book with some reasonably high expectations. There were definitely some surprises along the way, however- and the book was not quite as predictable as you’d think. I say “predictable” because after all, it is a retelling of one of the oldest and most beloved fairy tales of all time, so therefore, most people know the basic spoilers (herp derp), but Hodge put a couple of twists on the tale to keep it fresh, which was a pretty gutsy move in my opinion. It could’ve either gone down really well, or gone down like a ton of bricks. In my personal opinion, it went down well and certainly made Cruel Beauty stand out from previous retellings.
The world building in this book, like more retellings of beauty and the beast, is crucial to the story. I always love when authors take their time to detail the beast’s cursed home, giving it various rooms full of wonder and mystery. Hodge took a bit of a surprise route and actually managed to work Greek Mythology into this book quite solidly- something I was not expecting. I especially loved her take on the story of Pandora’s Box. This, to me, is what made it memorable. I will say I didn’t quite see the system of magic she used to be necessary and kept wondering what was meant to happen every time Nyx drew some sort of “sigil” on the wall, but it didn’t distract me too much so I can live with that. I really did enjoy the mythology aspects of this book though, if only because it made for an interesting take on the stories involved.
The characters in this book are a different category to what I’m used to reading. I actually enjoyed Nyx as a character- I know she has gotten some mixed reactions across the board. She was raised to be “cruel”, selfish, duty bound…and I really did feel bad for her. But much like the original tale of BATB, the beast must learn not to be cruel and to love- in many ways, Nyx was “the Beast” of this tale. I guessed quite early on what was going on with Ignifex/Shade, but again it didn’t bother too much because I really enjoyed this story. I loved the moments of interaction between Nyx and Ignifex and the chemistry between them. It reminded me very much of the Princess Bride a lot of the time, in terms of “Sleep well, Wesley I’ll most likely kill you in the morning”.
I gave this book four stars. While I had one or two issues and it didn’t blow me away, it is definitely one of the strongest retellings I’ve read for a while and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Other Beauty and the Beast Re-tellings:
1.Beauty- Robin McKinley https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4…
2.Rose Daughter- Robin McKinley https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8…
3.Belle- Cameron Dokey (Once Upon a Time series) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7…
If there are any BATB retellings, or indeed any Fairytale Retellings you’d like to recommend to me, go for it!