Author: Rosamund Hodge
Published: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
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.
Rosamund Hodge’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty, is a bold and imaginative retelling of Beauty and the Beast. With this highly ambitious book, Hodge attempted to take the wildly popular retellings one step further, mostly by making the connections between Cruel Beauty and the original story very loose, and wrapping what was left into much violence and darkness in her richly imaginative world. Consequently, we’re left with no more than a few vague similarities between Beauty and the Beast and Cruel Beauty, just enough to justify calling this a retelling at all.
Nyx, for one, is nothing at all like Belle. She is hateful and stubborn, quick to lash out at those she should aim to protect. I suspect some readers might find her less than endearing, and that’s putting it mildly, but I wasn’t troubled by her anger or her actions. In fact, her rage was the only thing about her I was able to fully understand, the injustice of her life from the moment she was born a constant burning sensation in my throat. It was obvious that Hodge strived to make her characters endlessly complex, but Nyx is the only one with whom she actually succeeded. The secondary characters, Nyx’s father and aunt in particular, were two-dimensional, archetypal and utterly predictable.
There’s no denying the lushness and elegance of Rosamund Hodge’s prose. Her writing is a thing of beauty, atmospheric, gorgeous and alluring. Yet oftentimes, the tenor of the prose prevented me from immersing in the story or caring about the characters. While I enjoyed her words, put together so prettily, I also found them to be emotionally sterile. Nothing about them felt real or emotional or visceral or true. Dark, twisted and beautiful Cruel Beauty may be, but emotionally, it leaves a lot to be desired.
The romance was certainly the part I liked best, Nyx’s moral dilemma making it more interesting and real. My failure to connect with Nyx took away some of my reading enjoyment, but seeing as I liked the Gentle Lord immensely, I found him and their relationship to be the saving grace of this book.
I still haven’t managed to find a retelling I actually liked, so do take my opinion with a grain of salt. I went into this because I was promised lush, atmospheric prose, and that’s what I got, so I shouldn’t complain too hard.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.