Friday, January 24, 2014

ARC Review: Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA, fairytale retelling
Published on January 28, 2014
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pages: 342
Read From: 1.17.14 - 1.18.14

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? Secude 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Absolutely love it. I love the incorporation of the spiral staircase and the rose, and Nyx in the red dress. No, I don't mind the character impersonator because you can't see her face. Distant figures don't bother me.

Characters: Nyx is flawed, and normally I'm not the biggest fan of flawed characters, because they are very rarely done well. Nyx isn't one of those, though; she's extremely well done. She's known all her life that when she hit seventeen, she would be given over to the prince of demons as his bride to appease her father's debt to him. And she's also known all her life that she would fulfill her father's plans in defeating the prince of demons, thereby sealing not only her future husband's doom, but also her own, for there will be no escape. It is very, very hard, based on these circumstances, to fault Nyx for her anger and hatred - even toward her little sister, who most of the time did not deserve the treatment Nyx dealt her. But Astraia is the baby of the family; the daughter that their father truly loves; the daughter who is free to live a long and happy life with whomever she chooses. While I cringed at how Nyx treated her, I also couldn't blame her for the hate she felt toward her sister. It would be very difficult to not feel hate. Probably one of the things that helped me like Nyx even more was her continued acknowledgement of her own flaws. Nyx knows that she isn't a loving daughter or sister; that she's bitter at heart and has no hope of redemption. She hates herself for how she is, but she cannot deny her feelings. A very flawed character, but I loved her, even though I was frustrated with her a lot of the time, too. Then there's Ignifex, the Gentle Lord, prince of demons. I loved him the moment he was introduced. He was funny, nonchalant, mysterious, but also had a very vulnerable side. He always had some quip ready for Nyx and pretended cynicism and gallows humor. And to top it all off, he was honorable. Ignifex's flaws are not as obvious as Nyx's (at least, to me they weren't), but he is also a deeply flawed character, and he is also done extremely well. But let us not forget Shade, Ignifex's mysterious servant. I loved him as much as I loved Ignifex, with his sorrowful background and gallantry. Just loved him.

The Romance: This is a fairytale retelling, so obviously there is romance. And I can't say too much about it without giving some of the story's plot twists away. Let me just reassure Readers of this simple fact: it at first seems like there will be a love triangle, but recall one very simple thing for this story - not everything is as it appears. Nyx is very unsure in her feelings for Ignifex at first - okay, for most of the book. And normally that sort of flip-flopping does annoy me, especially with a protagonist who is as emotional Nyx is. Yes, she's very emotional, prone to fits of anger and crying and frustration. But I can't say that I disagreed with her confusion. As far as she knows, Ignifex has enslaved her people and killed her mother. It is a betrayal to her family to fall in love with this man. But she can't not love him, either, because he isn't what she expected, and she begins to wonder if she knows the whole truth behind the history of her world. And unlike a lot of romances, I actually felt that this one was deep. It grew with the story and with the characters.

Plot: Once, the land of Arcadia was a part of our world, of ancient Greece. But a great Sundering occurred, tearing it away and into a strange realm of parchment skies, fake sunlight, and no stars. It is ruled over by the great prince of demons, the Gentle Lord, who makes bargains with people and demands cruel prices for his services. Nyx's father, the lord of the manor, made just such a bargain with the Gentle Lord once, and it cost him one of his daughters. More specifically, Nyx. She's known ever since she was little that when she turned seventeen, she would be wed to the Gentle Lord as payment for her father's treacherous bargain. But what the Gentle Lord does not realize is that he is not getting a gentle bride. A great sorcerer, Nyx's father has also taught her the way to defeat the Gentle Lord and free Arcadia. But Nyx can only succeed if she sacrifices her own life as well, for there will be no escaping the demon prince's enchanted palace once she has begun to collapse it. When the wedding day arrives, Nyx goes to her fate knowing what she must do. But the Gentle Lord, Ignifex, is not what she expected. And his castle holds far more secrets than she could ever imagine. As she explores its twisting hallways and thousands of enchanted rooms, Nyx begins to wonder if everyone is mistaken in the Gentle Lord; if there is far more to the great Sundering than anyone ever knew. What if the Gentle Lord suffers at the hands of an ill-fated bargain himself? Most fairytales retellings are set in a medieval, Victorian, or Georgian era, which is part of why I like them so much. And while many of the styles are Georgian, there is a very distinct ancient Greek feel to Arcadia and its history. Their mythology and religion is heavily based in Greek beliefs, the names echoing of ancient times. It was a very unique feel, and I really, really liked it. It actually lent the story a darker, mysterious air that I don't often associate with ancient Greece. The world Acadia was a bit bizarre and hard to follow at first. But as Nyx tells Readers more about Arcadia's history, and as she learns more about it herself, it becomes much clearer. The structure of the world is, in fact, paramount to the plotline and Ignifex's background. There were at times that I got frustrated with Nyx. Some of the plot twists are fairly easy to figure out on one's own and I couldn't understand why Nyx couldn't solve it just as quickly. But I did approve of her nosing about and not taking no for an answer. I would normally say that I would rather the romance hadn't been so prominent, but I actually become quite involved in it.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. I did really enjoy the Author's style, though she could have laid off the kissing. It's not detailed - don't worry about that. But Ignifex and Nyx do kiss - a lot. Setting that aside for a minute, the Author did a great job with the ambiance, with the mystery, the drama, and the subtle humor.

Content: Nyx often worries that Ignifex will claim his rights as husband and bed her (he doesn't). And the two do eventually sleep together (no details). It didn't bother me, because they were married, and again - no details. Nyx disrobes and the rest is between them.

Conclusion: It's very emotional and dramatic - and also a teeny tiny bit confusing at first. Again, I can't really explain without giving stuff away. But I was genuinely concerned - twice - that this Author was going to take the road of Greek tragedy and give us a real tear-jerker of an ending (not saying that she doesn't; my fears might have been confirmed, for all you know). Cruel Beauty was just amazing. It is definitely my favorite retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It's unique and has a great ambiance. And the romance felt very well developed and deep - and this Author did flawed characters very well.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen-and-up, great for fans of fairytale retellings.


  1. Doggone it, you evil people! Stop writing these reviews and reminding me I can't read the book yet. Particularly when it sounds so awesome.

  2. So many people love this book, I'm so sad that I can't read it yet!

    Book Badger

    1. Not too long to wait now, Amanda! What I would love is if the Author went on tour; she lives like 2 hours away from me, so I could actually meet her if she went on tour.

  3. I'm so glad to see so many people enjoying this book! It's one of my favorites ever. I love it so much. And Nyx. And Ignifex. And everything.

    1. Ditto, Blythe. Definitely one of my favorite fairy tale retellings to date.


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