Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Summary: 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.
The fact that the first line of the summary compares this book to Graceling is very upsetting to me. Graceling was an interesting, kick ass fantasy with a strong heroine, who was flawed and powerful and afraid and brave and I loved her. This book was not really a kick ass fantasy and the heroine was definitely flawed in a few of those categories.
This book starts with Nyx (thank you for that creative, oh so original name) who is getting married to to a demon prince that the people refer to as the Gentle Lord. He goes around making bargains with people that ruin their lives and a few hundred years ago, he swooped down and murdered the last prince and took away the sky and the sun. Nyx’s father wanted her mother to have his babies, so he made a deal with Ignifex, which of course did not go well. She gave birth to twin girls, dying a horrible, bloody death in the process, and as payment, one of the daughters gets to be married off to the demon prince once she is old enough. To try and take advantage of the situation, Nyx’s father and a bunch of other old windbag magician guys decide to train her to murder the demon prince and set their land free.
There were two things I actually liked about this book. Number one surprisingly being that Nyx was an interesting character. She is often described as having poison in her heart, and this is true. Straying away from the typical, sweet as honey with a smile like the sun sort of girl, she actually thinks spiteful thoughts and hates her family for selling her off to a monster. I like the sort of honesty that she has, refusing to lie to herself but still accepting the way things are, but so so angry inside. It was kind of refreshing to get this view of a teenage girl that despises everything because her life is unfair and she knows it and hates it. She hates her father for making the bargain and loving her sister more, she hates her sister for not being the one sold off, she even hates her dead mother for dying in the first place and making this all happen. The problem I have however is that I feel like Nyx is this hateful, bitter character, simply because the author thought about what kind of girl would a demon lord love, and realize that someone like that would of course love someone with darkness in their heart. I felt like Nyx was made the way she was simply to fit into this role.
On top of that, she wasn’t very assassin-y. Sure she hit him and tried to stab him a few times and had her super duper secret master plan, but she didn’t really follow through with anything. She wasn’t secretive about anything, she basically told him immediately that she was there to kill him along with her plan. The plot line that I was most excited about, the scheming and murdering, it got shoved to the side for a dramatic love story.
The other thing I liked was the mixed up mythology this book had. It obviously wasn’t very original since it was all just like Greek mythology with a few add on’s and twists, but I still enjoyed hearing about how all the gods came into play in this version. I feel like the author could have been more original and create maybe her own gods and a whole new religion, but this book was only like 350 pages and the mythology already felt rushed as it was. And I never really got immersed into this world. Anytime some long story or explanation came up, I found myself skim reading and not really taking in a single word. It just didn’t quite do it for me.
My main problem with this book was unfortunately the romance. Right off the bat, there was tons of random lip locking and tongue hockey going on. Her aunt’s idea of training her was basically trying to turn her into a whore, but this girl was serious. On like the first night there, she was kissing some other guy, while continuously thinking dirty thoughts about Ignifex. Also, she had no problem totally throwing her heart around. One day she was in love with one guy, then a week later she was in love with Ignifex, then she was back to the other one. It was like watching a ping pong match and I was super dizzy by the end. I understand that Nyx didn’t get much love and affection as a child (you know, since she was going to be sacrificed) but this was just pathetic.
On top of that, I found the actually story to be a little boring and predictable. Her wandering around the big sinister tower was interesting, as were the things she found, but the main mystery was easy to figure out and I felt that the ending was really rushed. It was over so quick that I was almost confused and startled, and had to go back and reread what had happened. It wasn’t necessarily a bad ending, just not executed as well as it could have been.
I would probably recommend this book to myself like 5 years ago, when I was just getting into young adult fantasy and didn’t really care if it was good or not, just as long as there was some kissing and a sappy romance. Nyx being a semi interesting character was definitely a surprise, but unfortunately still not enough to save this book.