Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Digital Audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28, 2014
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Mythology, Retellings, Romance, Young Adult
Length: 352 pages or 10 hours, 17 minutes
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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.
If you’re looking for a dark Beauty and the Beast retelling with a dangerous, passionate (but not overly graphic love story), you’ll enjoy Cruel Beauty.
Cruel Beauty is about Nyx, a young lady whose father has sold her away after making a deal with The Gentle Lord. Her father hopes she’ll kill the Gentle Lord and free the land of his demons. However, after a few weeks in his house, Nyx learns that everything is not quite as it appears. Freeing her land will not be so simple as bringing down his house, nor killing the Gentle Lord. And what’s worse, she has fallen in love with him.
I picked up this book because a few months ago, I read Crimson Bound and loved it. I’m not entirely sure how that one managed to get on my TBR before Cruel Beauty, but here we are. There were a lot of similar elements between the two that made me keep listening even when the slow pacing bored me. For my own personal tastes, I liked Crimson Bound better than Cruel Beauty, but that’s an unpopular opinion.
Rosamund Hodge writes beautifully. She has a deep, dark style of telling these stories that draws me in immediately. I’m all for fairytale retellings, but I really like the dark ones. There’s something about that writing style that makes the world seem bigger, and makes it feel like things are just on the other side of some invisible curtain. I love the way she writes and I’m here for it.
What I didn’t care for was the love triangle. Going in, knowing this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I knew there would be a fair amount of romance. And as far as love triangles go? This one wasn’t even bad! I’m not a fan of romance, no matter how brilliant it is. And the romantic storylines I do like have to catch me in the right mood and Cruel Beauty just didn’t. I can really see how this has an audience – I can see why it’s so well loved. Unfortunately, that aspect didn’t pull me in and as such? A lot of the book was slow and sappy. If you’re into that, though? Rosamund Hodge is a goddess.
The characters were good, but in many ways, I found myself comparing Nyx and Rachelle. These two protagonists for separate novels were very similar. They were both brave women who fell in love and had to shake themselves out of it to get stuff done… and then fell in love again later. They’re good characters, but so similar. I enjoyed the split characters of Shade and the Gentle Lord, but they were not so unique from one another. I think they both – but shade especially – could have used a little more room for development.
Probably the most interesting part of this novel were the moments where Nyx was able to explore the house. These passed so quickly and left me a little disappointed because the house itself is fascinating – like a maze and filled with traps. Life or death could be behind door number three! There was a lot of time spent on the romance and Nyx’s own conflicting feelings that I wish had been spent on grander worldbuilding in the present (as opposed to storytelling). If the love story had been better balanced with her finding the various hearts, I think I would have been more satisfied. But this is Beauty and the Beast, and Beauty and the Beast is a love story, so I get it.e h
Despite my griping, I feel strongly that Cruel Beauty is a successfully written story for the right audience, and deserves all the love it receives. If you aren’t already familiar with Rosamund Hodge’s work, fans of Wintersong and The Hazel Wood will likely enjoy these retellings. All in all, I solidly recommend this one, especially to those of you with a love of retellings, dark romance, and YA fantasy.
Do you enjoy Beauty and the Beast retellings? I have a few on my shelf I haven’t read yet from book boxes in 2017… but which are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!