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. (Goodreads description)
ISBN: 0062224735, hd, 352pp, 2014 Balzer + Bray
This was such a complex book. I really wanted to like it. I adore the “Beauty and the Beast” story too; it’s my all-time favorite fairy tale. That doesn’t mean that I’m closed-minded about new interpretations, far from it. That’s what storytelling is all about so when I heard there was going to be a new version released where Beauty (here called Nyx) is going to marry the Beast (a demon lord named Ignifex) and then try to kill him to save her people, I was like, “Yay!!! They’re totally going to fall in love. Let’s do this!”
I know, I’m a little odd.
So this story is not only “Beauty and the Beast” but there’s also elements of “Bluebeard” and “Taming of the Shrew” too. Ignifex’s castle is a labyrinth of locked rooms, some of which she has keys for and some that do not, and heaven help her if she finds a way into the rooms where she should not go.
I love that Nyx, who of course is intelligent, is almost an empowered heroine, educated and lethal. Her anger and resentment towards her twin sister, Astraia, makes her more flawed and interesting.
Another element that I really liked was the presence of servants in Ignifex “The Gentle Lord”‘s castle. In other iterations of B&B these servants are personified as magical, dancing objects, severed hands wielding candelabras or figures that move within paintings. In Hodge’s universe, the servants are shadows, living under a cursed enchantment but still capable of expressing some emotions which Nyx uses as a way to alleviate her loneliness. Great plot decision, loved it.
Okay, now for the bad.
What really bothered me the most about this novel (and why I rated it lower) is the conclusion of the book. It felt rushed. I was left feeling confused. There was so much that was crammed in that I lost track of what was actually happening. I rarely re-read a book when I’ve immediately finished it (though favs I’ll go to again and again). So, you’ve got to get my attention the first time around and Hodge lost me completely. I’m sorry!
Without giving away spoilers, I didn’t care for the way it wrapped up and was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied. If you’ve read Cruel Beauty and you understand what I mean, or maybe you understood the conclusion better, or maybe you think I’m completely wrong, sound off here.
I’m willing to give the title another round, and a different rating. So there you go. If you think Cruel Beauty deserves a higher rating, and another chance, let me know. As it was, I was rather disappointed.