Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: January 28, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings, Romance
Rating: 3/5 Stars
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.
This book what not what I expected. I wished I had enjoyed it more than I did. That’s not to say I thought it was terrible—there were aspects of the book I enjoyed, and I thought it had a lot of potential. But I was also disappointed by a few too many things.
I’d like to start with the few aspects I enjoyed, just so I can start off on a good note. I’d first like to applaud Rosamund Hodge’s writing skills. Despite the fact that the story lacked in other areas, the writing remained gorgeous throughout. It was flowery in a good way, with vivid descriptions and witty, clever, highly entertaining dialogue, mainly between Nyx and Ignifex. The writing was funny even in serious scenes. While it seems like the characters are the ones lightening up the mood, it’s really the author. It was an excellent trick, and had me laughing more than once.
I enjoyed the way Nyx and Ignifex's relationship grew at the beginning. It was slow and as realistic as it could possibly be considering the fact that this was a fairy tale retelling. Parts of Nyx slowly begin to notice the little quirks about him, and she tries to deny the fact that she likes them. But then halfway through the novel, she is suddenly in love with Ignifex, all character development and slow realization on Nyx's part gone. That kind of love—the all-consuming, completely fake love—is one of my book pet peeves, and I was sorry to see it in Cruel Beauty because I had such high hopes for it being the opposite.
Despite this, there was excellent conflict in the novel, internal and external. Nyx was constantly at odds with herself, and the situations she got into were intricate and complex. It was frustrating for the reader in a good way. Without the conflict, I don’t think Cruel Beauty would have kept my attention at all. I struggled reading it even with the conflict.
If you set aside the conflict and excellent writing, the story was lacking in the two most important areas: characters and plot. The plot was slow, especially in the beginning, and it took me about fifty pages or so (a fourth of the entire book) to get into it. There was so much potential for excellent scenes and gripping action, but it just didn't happen. Instead, the author seemed to make writing down all the information for the world and mythology her priority. It made sense—there was so much information about the world she created that it was difficult to follow—but I’d rather read an actual storyline than a dissertation on the world. When there were huge plot points, they were confusing and unnecessary. I didn't like Nyx's sudden change in attitude when she betrayed Ignifex and decided that she loved her family more than him. It didn't seem right, considering she had completely different thoughts on the matter just hours before.
The book didn't follow Beauty and the Beast at all. Other than the fact that there was a prince and a huge castle, nothing really involved the fairy tale. I think it would have been completely fine to put the novel under the fantasy genre and leave it at that.
There was a huge lack of characters. If I counted them up one by one, the total would come to about six, maybe seven. It was like the world consisted of only a few people. Either that or the rest were so unnoticeable that they were never included in the book. The chemistry between characters, especially between Nyx and Shade, was off and just sort of odd. Their relationship didn't seem at all necessary to me until I got to the end and realized who he was. If only there had been a few more characters involved and their relationships had been polished up, I think I would have enjoyed that aspect of the novel much more.
Overall, Cruel Beauty was not exactly a winner for me. Despite this, it wasn't a bad book. If you enjoy fairy tale retellings and excellent descriptions—if the lack of a good plot and characters doesn't bother you too much—then I would recommend it. If not, leave this one on the shelf.