Date of Publication: January 28 2014
Source: Borrowed ARC (thanks!)
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.
Cruel Beauty is a gorgeous story. It is a rose among dandelions. It is a scoop of swirling, luxurious dark chocolate ice cream in a world of plain vanilla. Cruel Beauty carries well deserved hype with it, yet I was still shocked at how well put together this story was.
Nyx was a brilliant character. I admired her and sympathized with her. She was fierce and so honest with herself. Nyx has lived her whole life preparing to be sacrificed to the Gentle Lord because of a bargain her father made long ago. Her land, Arcadia, has been sundered from the Earth and she is her people's only hope to free themselves from a land of demons. Nyx's predicament was so dire that I connected to her from the start. It doesn't hurt that she acted completely humanely. She was angry and bitter, even when she logically knew it was wrong. See, her father had two daughters and chose to give away Nyx. Nyx loved her family but she was angry at her family, especially her sister. That dynamic, the love/hate with Astraia, was perfectly played out. Nyx struggled to reconcile loving her sister and hating her sister because she was going to die so her sister could live. I don't want to imagine ever being in such a position, but I feel like I would react very similarly to Nyx. So, from the beginning I absolutely adored her.
Some people have said they thought the beginning was slow, but I adored it. Cruel Beauty set its plot up luxuriously by taking its time to develop the intrigue, the characters, and the world. The writing was pretty and interesting enough that I was never bored. I also believe that's a part of Cruel Beauty's style; it starts out slow, but then picks up until the climax and the perfect resolution.
I have to comment on Ignifex now. I don't know how to explain him. He was lighthearted and cruel. He had some evil in him and he genuinely had a different set of morals than Nyx. He was a fascinating character to read about, but unlike many of my favourite romances, he never stole the show. I adored him because Nyx adored him and their relationship was phenomenal. They started out slow, and they gradually fell in love. Their rapport was quick and I think they were a perfect match.
As the story progressed, the mythology slowly weaved itself in, tighter and tighter. Like most fairy tales there was an air of destiny all throughout the story. We first learned about Hermetics and the four elements that were its foundation. From there, it was a combination of Roman and Greek mythology and more "local" mythology. I'm not sure if the villages' stories were based on some real cultures' stories, but either way, they were a nice little add on. And then there were the demons, who were terrifying. I know that Cruel Beauty is based on Beauty and the Beast, and the similarities were very clever. Rosamund Hodge took parts from the fairy tale and remade them into her own so while Cruel Beauty may be based on a fairy tale, it stands strongly on its own.
Obviously, I enjoyed Cruel Beauty. It is a story that I savoured, and I'm impressed and pleased with it. I feel like for this type of story, Cruel Beauty is really as good as it gets so I'm giving it 5 stars.