Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
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)
I’m a HUGE sucker for any fairy tale retelling, so I have no idea why I waited so long to read this book. In any case, I started reading it and could not put it down until I was finished (except for sleep. Damn that sleep).
Because of a deal struck before her birth, Nyx ( I know. I can’t decide if I loathe or love that name. Still up in the air there) is destined to marry the Gentle Lord. Despite his moniker, he is the evil demon who rules over the land. Everyone there is his captive, held at bay by the constant threat that he’ll unleash his demons–over whom he also rules–to spread terror. While Nyx hates her betrothed, and despises the father whose traded her life away, she wants to fulfill her destiny and kill the Gentle Lord in the name or her people, finally freeing them from his reign.
But, surprise, surprise, the Gentle Lord, otherwise known as Ignifex, is not quite what she expects. He’s frightening, yes, but charming and funny. And his house, while terrifying, is an enigma, a labyrinth of changing rooms and mysteries. Nyx longs to save her land, especially her dear twin sister, but she also begins to feel something for Ignifex–an odd mix of lust and hate. She wonders if maybe his plight has been misunderstood and if perhaps he isn’t the one pulling the strings.
This is not your typical, Disney-fied Beauty and the Beast.
From the moment Ignifex, enters the picture, I was hooked. Pull up a chair and charm my socks off why don’t you, you evil demon? That may sound shallow, I know, but I really love characters who aren’t what they’re supposed to be (even when you know it’s Beauty and the Beast and the Beast isn’t so ghastly). I mean, yes, he has red, cat-like eyes (creepers!), and he is very naughty what with this Rumplestiltskin-ish way he loves to bargain with desperate people (Nyx’s father among them). But there is something there, something kind. He’s evil, no question, because that’s his job, but he’s more like someone who has merely accepted his fate than someone who overtly does bad things.
I liked Nyx because she’s sassy and flawed beyond measure. It’s obvious to Ignifex from day one that she, like his eight wives before, will try to kill him (and this amuses him), but she’s not even shy about it. Maybe it’s not the best strategy, but I think that’s what he likes about her. In a way, there are very much alike. Nyx doesn’t want her fate. She hates that her father sentenced her to it, but she accepts it. She accepts that not only must she destroy the Gentle Lord, but she must, more than likely, die in the process. Neither Nyx nor Ignifex is dishonest about the darkness in their hearts, and while it’s what could ultimately pull them apart, I think it brings them together too.
Now, I definitely had some issues. First, can we just stop putting things like “Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast” in book blurbs (it was on this book’s online blurb and I removed it because REALLY?)? This book is nothing like Graceling. Nothing. Second, Nyx lived in an interesting land (one I can’t recall the name of, sorry), but we didn’t learn a ton about it or the people. There was a lot of Greek mythology thrown in, which is always fun, but sometimes it felt confusing as to how it all fit into society and their ways. I would have liked more there. My biggest issue, however, was with the ending, which felt sort of rushed and jumbled together. It was not at all the way I expected things to happen (and that’s fine) but it felt forced a bit. I wish the pacing had slowed, maybe having less happen, but with more meaning. The love story also came on pretty fast, but I think the author shows us their connection in most of their encounters, so I bought it.
Also, did I mention that I LOVED Ignifex? Not sure if that was clear. Maybe it’s because I pictured him sort of like this:
Despite my few complaints, this was a good book. It was fun. If you are a fantasy or fairy tale fan I think you’ll enjoy it.
Crush Intensity– 4.0/5
Where’d I Get It: Why, the library, of course, just like Belle would.