Released: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 5 GLOWING STARS
Word Rating: BURNING LOVE
Reviewed by: Blythe
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.
Let me say it now: Cruel Beauty is one fantastic, gorgeously written, spectacularly dark debut. Many of its aspects may not appeal to some readers, and I understand that; although I really loved how the romance in Cruel Beauty and the "love triangle" (note the quotation marks--don't run off) played out, I do understand why some other readers, a handful of my friends amongst them, take issue with much of this novel.
But honestly, it's been weeks since I've finished Cruel Beauty, and I have truly nothing negative to say about it, other than the fact that the world-building and terminology may be a bit overwhelming at first. However, when I got accustomed to the world in Cruel Beauty, and got a grasp on where Hodge was going with the story around fifty pages in, I was absolute putty in this book's hand.
Cruel Beauty is a very ambitious novel, and it's one that will likely throw some readers off in how odd it is; it's a Beauty and the Beast retelling, with some Greek mythology thrown in, a whole lot of fantasy, a maybe even a hint of dystopian aspects, and trust me when I say it's all handled really, really well. What could have easily been a convoluted and silly novel instead incorporated each and every one of those aforementioned plot points seamlessly.
Nyx is a strong willed character, and is at times a bit frustrating, but she is also one of the most realistic characters I've read about this year. After all the things she goes through in the novel, she's understandably angry and fickle regarding whom she truly loves, and why. In reality, I think anyone would react similar to how Nyx reacted if they were placed in the same situation as her. As well as being an authentic character, she does eventually grow past the anger that was so evidently boiling up inside her in the beginning of the novel, but she never truly gets past it, much like anyone wouldn't. And that's why I love her character arc and development: you may be just as frustrated as Nyx is with her anger and fickleness, but you can't deny that her emotions are real, and you'd react the same. In any other novel, with any other character, Nyx's actions may just have annoyed me. I'm aware of this; but in Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge creates a character in Nyx that is, while not always likable, wholly relatable, and that is a great feat in my eyes.
And then there's Ignifex, who is one charming little bastard, and I'll leave it at that. There are much more things for me to touch upon in regards to the romance in this novel, all of which are spoilers. So I'm just going to let the readers of this unravel the mysteries of this romance on their own. (And trust me, it's something you'll want to discover on your own. The romance is something you'll either love or hate (see below), but it is definitely intriguing and original.) But yes, Ignifex--awesome, complex character, with a unique and surprising backstory...yes. Yes, yes, yes. Lovers of Cole from the Everneath series by Brodi Ashton, this guy's for you.
I think Cruel Beauty is a novel that will have some pretty contrasting opinions once it's published. Although some think its romance is insta-love (which I disagree with since it was said that five months passed before any 'love' thoughts occurred, but I digress) with an unnecessary love triangle (which I also respectfully disagree with because of reasons, but you all know how I feel about love triangles), I found Cruel Beauty to be a truly beautiful and stunningly original debut. With it, Rosamund Hodge has taken some aspects from Beauty and the Beast that manage to make the novel stand out as an adaptation, but she also introduces so many new concepts of her own to make the ageless tale as old as time we all love even lovelier.