Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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.
Confession time: I'm a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast. I could rewatch the Disney version with my daughter a hundred times and never grow tired of it. "Gaston, you are positively primeval." But since it's confession time, I feel like I should admit that I haven't read all that many retellings of the tale. And with all the buzz this book has inspired, I was a little skeptical when I first picked this one up.
I really shouldn't have worried, though, because this novel is only loosely based on the original story and focuses a lot of its attention on Greek mythology, much to my delight. If there's one thing I like more than Beauty and the Beast, it's Greek mythology, so naturally I loved seeing it infused into this gorgeous story, dark as it may be. Also, faeries...there are faeries in this retelling, though they're not called that outright. It's seriously like the author said "What three [awesome] things have no business being in a story together?" and made it work.
And it soooo works. The story starts out slow, with the author spending quite a bit of time introducing the reader to the kingdom of Arcadia, the residents essentially trapped under a dome, not one of them ever having seen the true sun. Even so, Hodge's writing evoked a sense of romance, just in the way Nyx's situation is described, the tragic yet beautiful way her circumstances unfold. The day has come for her to live up to her life's mission, and it's both heartbreaking and empowering.
"Death is always interesting to you, isn't it?"Nyx is perhaps my favorite type of protagonist. She's strong and capable, yet the author allows us to see her vulnerability, even when she shows it to know one else. And I don't just mean her sorrow at being married off to a monster so that she might destroy him. I'm also referring to her anger at her situation, at the fact that her father is sacrificing her to make amends for his own mistakes. I think a person who finds herself in this situation should be allowed her anger, should be given time to wallow in self-pity and doubt before being sent off to complete her task.
He advanced on me like a cat stalking a bird. "You want me to worry more about my own demise?"
"Oh, no, I couldn't possibly bother you. Do go ahead and rest in comfortable ignorance."
"The better to kill me in my sleep?"
"It would be rude to wake you first."
Pretty much all of the characters in this novel have questionable morals and intentions, and though that will likely be off-putting for many readers, I reveled in it. If characters can't be relatable or likable, I at least want them to be genuine with hints at their darker natures. And none of the characters in Cruel Beauty are particularly likable.
Except maybe Shade, but considering the dark and deceitful natures of everyone else Nyx encounters, I decided immediately that I wouldn't trust him. Ignifex, on the other hand, never hid the fact that he was evil and leaned toward being brutally honest and forthright with Nyx by comparison. I tend to fancy a villain who straddles the line between good and evil, who sees things in shades of grey rather than in black and white. Which means I was over the moon happy when Nyx felt a pull towards him.
"But you know what you are, and what you deserve. You lie to me but not to yourself. That's why I love you."
I was warned about the love triangle way in advance of reading this novel. I think it either desensitized me to the situation, or the manner in which the triangle was resolved itself was just so stunning that I can forgive it anything. Honestly, I saw it coming -- how everything would end -- pretty much from the moment Nyx met Shade, but sometimes it's all in the execution, not the outcome, as in this case.
I found everything about this story to be captivating: the nature of Ignifex's curse, the castle that seemed almost to be sentient, the death threats and banter between Nyx and Ignifex that bordered on coquettish. I loved every second of this strange, beautiful story. This may be a "tale as old as time" but it's been made completely new again in the capable hands of Rosamund Hodge. I want more from this author, and I want it now.
GIF it to me straight:
About the author:
I love mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. My debut novel, CRUEL BEAUTY (a YA fairytale fantasy, where Greek mythology meets Beauty and the Beast), is due out from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins in Winter 2014.
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