“Cruel Beauty” by Rosamund Hodge
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
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 was a really interesting mesh up of fairy tales, mythology and fantasy. The summary advertises the Beauty and the Beast comparison. I’ve never read the original fairy tale but I know the basic story well enough to see what the author did. A young girl is given to a beastly monster by her father for his sins. Surprise! the beast is not as horrible as the girl imagined. Hodge made a really interesting choice of infusing quite a bit Greek mythology into the story. It wasn’t a bad choice but I was confused by it since the summary made no mention of it at all.
The banter between Nyx and Ignifex was fun to watch. He’s seen it all so he’s not giving in to Nyx’s charm–or lack of it. She admits to him from the beginning that she will kill him. I’m not sold on the relationship (because it is weird) but it was fascinating seeing one wear the other one down. They don’t live up to their first impressions. I’m wasn’t impressed by the push of a love triangle. It’s a shadow of her husband? It was really weird.
I did like the fact that Nyx struggles with killing Ignifex. It wasn’t all about not killing him because she loved him (though that is a big part). She struggles with killing him because he’s not what you think he’d be. Killing him could very well seal the fate of the kingdom. Not to mention there’s the struggle of Ignifex being the only one who seems to like her just as she is.
The setting was…I don’t know. I liked the castle. I love when castles are as much of a character as anyone else in the story. I just didn’t like that I couldn’t place where the story was. There were constant references to Greek mythology. So does this take place in ancient Greece? Some place near the Mediterranean Sea that believe in Greek myths? A fictional place and time that believe in the myths? I just could never get a firm grasp and that always annoys me.
The bottom line? Interesting take on Beauty and the Beast and it was a fairly enjoyable read.