The romance of "Beauty and the Beast" meets the adventure of "Graceling" in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny.
But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom's mountaintop, nothing is as she expected — particularly her charming and beguiling new husband.
Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can't resist the pull of her sworn enemy — who's gotten in her way by stealing her heart.
For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.
The romance of "Beauty and the Beast" meets the adventure of "Graceling" in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Left Me Wanting More: I’ll admit, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting and the “retelling” part was a bit out there. Things didn’t really come together until a little after halfway through and that’s when I started to see more bits and pieces that resembled the B&B storyline. I also wasn’t too fond of the romance. While I did like their interactions, I didn’t believe their love. Things were a big rushed in the emotion department and I honestly preferred them as friends and cohorts rather than lovers.
Final Verdict: I think if people go into this with an open mind and maybe even, not knowing it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, maybe they might enjoy it more. This is definitely one of those “slow burn” reads that you have to really be invested in. There were parts I really enjoyed and parts that were a bit confusing, but overall, it was a decent read. I’d say read this more for the uniquely magical world as opposed to the romance.
CRUEL BEAUTY, a re-imagined Beauty and the Beast with a foundation in Greek mythology and ancient folk fairy tales, is a complex, surreal story that may take readers some time to digest. The world of Arcadia appears to be tied to the old Grecian-Roman empire (and its mythology) but with an alternate history in place. The author blends elements of Greek tragedies, old gods and customs, and nods to more traditional fairy tales in a complicated tapestry that takes some effort to understand but that also seamlessly swallows the reader into a world that is nothing like our own. Discerning readers will delight in the scattered references to historical texts and poems. The world may be complicated, the rules sometimes seeming to shift, but it all comes together to create a story that is as compelling as it is unique.
The characters stand out in CRUEL BEAUTY for their flaws, their obsessions, and their authenticity. There are no easy characters, no stock portraits. Every choice is bound up in the culture of the world, in the pathos of family and national tragedies, and in the reality that Arcadia is haunted by demons and every character is either afraid, resigned, or angry over that fact. The relationships are strained--the conflict between loving someone and resenting them or fearing them or longing for them to be somehow different than they are--is beautifully and subtly executed. The romance blooms slowly with plenty of thorns, none of which are the usual roadblocks to a fulfilling relationship.
My favorite is Nyx, the heroine, who stands out because she is dutiful on the outside (and on the inside as well, though in a twisted, resentful, self-destructive sort of way) and so angry and hurt inside that bitterness and hatred grow within her. She's incredibly self-aware of her own short-comings and does not apologize for them, nor does she take pride in them. She is simply Nyx, the product of a country long under the cruel reign of a demon prince, the daughter of a father willing to sacrifice his daughter to pay for his sins while calling his actions noble, the sister of a girl who received all the love sharp-tongued Nyx could never find, and the betrothed of a creature who is destined to destroy her, even if she destroys him first. Watching her character arc, seeing the small steps she takes toward a better Nyx without losing her flaws or her self-awareness, was truly enjoyable.
The plot twists combined with the incredibly high stakes in the story will keep readers turning pages long past their bedtimes. While most readers will see one plot twist coming from early on, the HOW of it will be shocking. As will the choices Nyx and others make to resolve the continuously escalating problems. As with the world building, there are no easy fixes, and there are no hard choices removed from the characters.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The beginning, while intriguing, is slow compared to the rest of the book because of the incredible amount of world building Ms. Hodge must accomplish. The first 75 pages are rather exposition-heavy, and while readers who love complexity or have an affinity for Greek mythology will find it fascinating, readers who are used to a faster pace and world that takes less effort to understand might struggle a bit. The effort is definitely worth it.
Beautiful prose, surreal imagery, terrifying stakes, and a complex world make CRUEL BEAUTY a must-read for fans of fantasy, fairy tales, and mythology and establish Ms. Hodge as an author to watch.
The Slow Start That Almost Left Me Wanting More:
Let me warn you, dear reader, that Cruel Beauty starts slowly. Hodge starts out with world building in a big way. For about a hundred pages, Cruel Beauty infodumps world building on your head. Were it not for Hodge’s incredibly gorgeous prose, I might have considered DNFing. As it was, the Greek mythology, fairy tale elements and the writing didn’t make that possible, but I was still concerned. However, once the sheer information overload ceases, Cruel Beauty becomes incredibly impressive.
What I Loved Unreservedly:
Though I remain fuzzy on some of the elements of the world building, I’m certainly fascinated by it. Hodge seems to have developed an alternate history spinning off of Ancient Greece, one in which the gods and goddesses are all real. Within this scope, a demon has subjugated the land of Arcadia, where the heroine lives. The Gentle Lord encased Arcadia within a parchment dome and occasionally sics his demons on the populace. Characters hearken back to Greek mythology or to Greek dramas.
Hodge gets the tone of Cruel Beauty perfect. This book has the darkness of original fairy tales and the brightness too, the fickleness and unreliability of the Greek pantheon, and the family drama of the Greek classics. Everything is confusing and mired in shadow. As you read, you’ll find yourself constantly questioning what is real and what is illusion. References to Greek mythology and fairy tales are littered throughout the pages of Cruel Beauty for the discerning eye to admire. From a technical standpoint, I marvel at the complexities, even if I can’t appreciate them all on the first read through.
Two elements made Cruel Beauty a success with me on an emotional level. First, the heroine. Nyx endears herself to me by reason of her not being especially likable. With Cruel Beauty being in some measure a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, you might be expecting someone like the Belle of the Disney movie. In fact, Nyx is the “wicked sister,” the one who, in a classic tale, would not get the love of a prince, but would end unhappily destroyed by her own evil. Nyx has poison in her heart and on her tongue. She struggles to tamp down the hate inside her, desperate for someone to care but also constantly pushing them away. She’s angry and mean and entirely herself.
The other aspect I love wholeheartedly is the romance. The love triangle between Nyx, Ignifex, and Shade is one of the few that really works. The romance with Ignifex really makes me feel all the feels. For one thing, there’s again this darkness to the main characters of this fairy tale. They may be living in a fairy tale, but they’re full of the tragic flaws of Greek tragedies. The reason that I so entirely love this romance is that the love comes slowly, and that, for all that Nyx and Ignifex are messed up creatures, it’s so healthy. They fall in love with each other as they truly are, not with idealized versions of one another. He loves the poison in her heart, just as she comes to love his bad aspects. It’s not love in spite of the negative parts of their personalities, but because of everything that makes them who they are. SO MUCH YES TO THIS.
The Final Verdict:
Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty is a complex, magical, ornate story which will charm the patient reader. It’s a work that bears more than one exploration, and which will no doubt improve upon further inspection. If you enjoy Greek mythology, tragedies or the original, bloody fairy tales, do not miss Cruel Beauty.
Cruel Beauty was really something. Both a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and having Greek mythology, it was an explosive combination. I will tell you this right now, whatever you are expecting from this book is DEAD wrong! I had so many theories while reading, and next to none of them happened exactly how I thought it out. There are hints that could go so many different ways, it's insane!
The main character is Nyx. She is in no way shape or form a perfect person. And she knows that. She has a slightly irrational hate for her younger sister, and she has wicked in her heart. She admits that on page one. Her family though, with the slight exception of her twin sister, can all just poof. I hated their characters (in a good way) like the plague. Seriously, just die people! Nyx definitely goes through some changes in this book. She learns how to accept the people around her, and what it means to love. There's also Ignifex, AKA the beast. His character changes so much of the course of the book, it's amazing to watch. Also, there were lots of swoons where he's concerned. Knowing the story Beauty and the Beast will help with some plot points, but it does deviate as well.
The end! The end! I did not see it coming from a mile away. There was a lot of quick flipping of pages late into the night to see how it was going to end. The way the story ended, it could actually stand alone, but I REALLY want more! The characters got their story, but more is always appreciated. At some points, things got a little confusing. Like, whoa, where'd this come from? But it always made sense at some later point in the plot. The action was intense, the romance scorching, and the characters deep. They weren't your typical fairy tale heroes and heroins, they were so much more. Cruel Beauty is a beautiful retelling that isn't letting me out of it's grasp. A full five stars for sure!
Nyx’s father made a deal with the devil so to speak and for it she must bear the consequences. On her seventeenth birthday she will marry the prince of demons, the immortal creature who has imprisoned her kingdom. Since childhood she has been trained to kill Ignifex and she loathes that she will have to be near him. She feels a duty to her kingdom, jealousy toward her sister, and animosity for her aunt and father. Once married and trapped in Ignifex’s house she learns that there is more to Ignifex and the curse that holds her kingdom trapped.
Cruel Beauty has mystery, emotion, a charming male lead, a strong heroine, and witty moments that made me devour it. I read this novel in no time at all and although I predicted Ignifex’s mystery early on I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot was interesting but it was the characters that drew me in and held me. Ignifex was charming and funny. I loved how he played with Nyx and at times he was like a sad little puppy that I just wanted to hold. Nyx was a great heroine, she could easily exchange banter with Ignifex, and her determination kept the story moving. The emotions of duty, hate and love that Nyx felt were raw and true. I thought that if I were in her shoes I would find myself feeling as she did. I liked how Nyx gradually changes through the book. Her change is slow as is her falling in love with Ignifex and I liked that because it felt more genuine.
Overall Cruel Beauty is one of my favorite retellings of an old tale; beauty and the beast. It’s fresh, cute, funny, and a little dark at times. The last few page confused me a little, it took a moment for me to realize what was happening. Even though the ending sequence is a bit confusing I think the conclusion is perfect for the characters.
Now I am a huge Disney fan. I love my princesses and I love my fairy tales and I love my HEAs but this book is so different from a typical Disney movie yet it manages to maintain that magical atmosphere that fills you with joy and makes you want to sing.
This is a story about a girl upon who the fate of a kingdom depends. A girl who has been raised to know she will die. A girl who has been raised to kill a beast.
Nyx is the female lead I’ve been looking for a long long time. She is real. She is not portrayed as some sort of hero even though that is kind of what she is. She is not a nice girl who is excited about giving up her life to save the kingdom. Hell she wants to live. She hates her sister (while simultaneously loving her) because she gets to live while Nyx has to sacrifice her life. Her sister is the loved daughter, the naïve sheltered one while she is the one whose aunt gave her advice on how to have sex with her soon to be husband. She hates her father but she still wishes that he felt some regret for what he was condemning her to. She has ‘poison’ in her heart. She isn’t a sweet girl, she can be cruel, she is clever and will use your weaknesses against you if it'll help her but in spite of this she is still capable of being nice. Underneath all her bavardo she IS a girl who is scared, a girl who doesn’t want to die, a girl who wants to be loved even though she isn’t perfect.
Ignifex was incredibly charming. You cannot help but fall for him, even when he is the enemy. I think what’s most interesting about him is that he can charm your pants off even when he is not actually a good guy. He never actually acts in a way that would label him an asshole though, he is just, a mystery. How do you define evil? What he does makes him a bad guy but are the people who come asking him for favors any better themselves? People, who are selfish, people who think they deserve the best of everything. These aren’t innocent people who go to him asking for favors, so is he evil for making them suffer? Or is he not?
The romance between the two is swoon worthy. The Disney fan in me had tears in her eyes half the time. They accept each other for who they are, they don’t expect the other to change. It takes a while for them to get there but they do, they do get there and it’s worth the journey.
Cruel Beauty is a refreshingly original novel. It takes two of my favorite ‘genres’, fairy tale retellings and mythology, (I have many..eek) and mashes them together. It does that really well too. The world building is magnificent. It has a certain magical feel to it but it is also dark, in a way that sometimes gives you goosebumps. Add to that the elements from greek mythology and you have a winner.
There was a certain twist that I am sure everyone will see coming. The problem with the said twist is that it is poorly executed. Very poorly. I wouldn’t even mind the obviousness had it actually made sense when it happened.
Which brings me to the ending. The ending did not work at all. It left me confused and I didn’t get the kind of closure I had sought. I expected a completely different ending. I WANTED a different ending. Because the ending we got kind of took away from both Nyx and Ignifex’s personality. It changed them into something they weren’t, they were no longer the characters I fell in love with. The ending was too perfect. Too sugar sweet. With such a great main character, you don’t actually want that kind of ending because it takes away what you love most about her. I pretty much refused to acknowledge that ending, I mentally re-wrote one. Yes that is how much I didn't like the ending. I guess this was mostly a 'it's me not you' thing and I am sure other people won't have the same problems I did (except Khanh, but I already ranted about it to her so I didn't turn into a rage beast thanks to her).
Despite everything, I’ll have to say, this was one hell of a retelling and I recommend it to everyone. It has a strong female lead, a male character you can actually see yourself loving and a wonderful relationship. Plus the love child of a fairy tale retelling and Greek mythology is bound to be awesome.
Okay, the first thing you need to know is that whoever did the marketing on this book was incorrect. This is not Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast, it's Greek Mythology & Beauty and the Beast. The other thing you need to know right off the bat is that is slow in the beginning and there is a ton of info-dump, but please stick with it as it's one crazy ride.
I absolutely love Greek Mythology and while I know a lot of people thought that the addition of Greek Mythology turned the book a bit pretentious, I didn't I loved the addition of Greek Mythology. It took me back to 5th grade when I studied it and I tested myself throughout the book to see how much of it, I remembered.
Nyx knows that she is to be married to the Gentle Lord as soon as she is old enough. That was the bargain that her father made to him prior to her birth. She has never had a choice in the matter. She has resented her sister for being the favored one. She resents her father for not trying to save her from this fate.
Yet she has a plan. She plans to seduce the Gentle Lord, destroy his castle and free her people from the 900 year old curse that has been upon them.Yet no where in her plan did she expect to fall for Ignifex, the Dark Lord. She also never expected to meet Shade. Shade has more secrets than Nyx realizes. Shade is even more mysterious than Ignifex is.
In a book like this, you worry that so much effort and energy will go into the world building and that the character development will suffer. You'll be happy to know that it doesn't. The main characters are all fleshed out nicely and even the secondary characters are fleshed out nicely which was really nice to see.
For the first half of the book I was Team Shade. He was sweet and kind and clearly Nyx was interested in that. I think she was attracted to Shade not just because of his looks, but because for the first time, someone was kind to her and he valued her. My love affair with Ignifex didn't start until I was about 55% of the way into the book.
Before I knew it, I was swept up in Ignifex's clutches. He was much like Nyx. He was a prisoner in this castle much like herself. Yet somehow these two managed to fall in love. Before I knew it, I was rooting for them. Big time and my love of Shade was forgotten.
I am giving this book 4 stars mostly because the ending massively confused me. Maybe it was because I was up until all hours reading it, I'm not sure but overall it was really good and I would totally recommend this book to people who love Greek Mythology and or Beauty and the Beast.
The beginning of the book wasn't what I expected, and I didn't really get fully into it until Nyx was married and in the castle of the Gentle Lord. It was more about gods and goddesses, and repetitive moanings about her and her sister as well as a rather tedious to me set up of the world. Another thing that was lost in the retelling that was a favorite part of the Beauty and the Beast original was how Beauty sacrificed willingly for her family, and here Nyx really had no choice and she complained about it. However, several of my blogger buddies dubbed this a favorite so I kept with it longer than I might have otherwise.
However, I started liking the world and the story picked up when we met Ignifex and Shade. Both had qualities that made me want to know more about them and this is where I started being interested and invested in the story. I began to respect Nyx more and more because she is downright real. She has love for her sister, but also resents her because her father chose her sister as the one to fawn over and Nyx the one to sacrifice to the gentle Lord. But she doesn't just accept these feelings, she really tries to control and let the love win out.
The love triangle in this one is great. I was especially falling for Shade, and had a few theories about him, but I won't say because it would be a spoiler either way. He could only say certain things, and couldn't betray Ignifex because he was bound to him, but his gentle and believing nature really drew me to him. He helped Nyx when he could and I really pitied but also admired him at the same time for staying strong and still having hope after being imprisoned for so long.
Ignifex was an enigma. He was cruel lots of times, which wasn't a surprise since he is the ultimate deceiver but he also showed concern and care at times when I am sure that he didn't have to. In some ways I come to pity him knowing some of his backstory, but it is hard to keep feeling that when I am reminded of all he did, all the pain he's caused. The romance between the two always took me by surprise seeing his gentler side, but just like Nyx, I questioned it, and wondered what the outcome could possibly be.
Nyx has quite some adventures in exploring Ignifex's house, looking for answers, and trying to make things right, to fulfill her purpose and to find herself freedom.
The ending was perfect for the story. I was kinda confused at what exactly was going on from about 85% up to well, about 95% but still, I think that I know, or at least I pieced together enough that makes me good with the story. I think part of it may be my sickness haze, but I dunno.
Also, the ending was perfect. It somehow wrapped everything I wanted for this story (even when it seemed to be in direct contradiction to each other) and gave Nyx and ending that I couldn't even have conjured up. It had plenty of action, lots of character development and was a satisfying and good read that I am glad I stuck through the slow beginning for.
So, I will say that it was def worth the read, it had a slow (for me) beginning, I was confused at the resolution but it had an enthralling love triangle (that I was right about for once), a main character I came to love for her honesty and a heart-pounding and satisfying ending.
Bottom Line: A fantasy that had me a bit confused at times, slow in the beginning, but made it totally and completely worth it with the most unique love triangle and resolution I've ever read.
The first thing you need to know about this book is that Rosemund Hodge created her own spin on BatB with weaving a breathtaking fairytale with a splash of Greek mythology thrown in there. This alone should be enough to capture your attention.
Nyx's father has been training her to marry and one day kill a powerful immortal Ignifex who's been striking bargains with mortals for ages. In one of these bargains Nyx's mother died after delivering Nyx and her twin sister into this world. Nyx doesn't have a great relationship with her father because he never cared for her like other fathers do. She's glad to be rid of him even though she's forced to live with a demon until one of them died. She is convinced Ignifex is a devil with the angel's body ans she will do whatever it takes to destroy him. But what if there's something more to this story? What if Ignifex in fact isn't the bad guy?
The best thing about this book is the colorful description of the castle. The never ending staircase leading to Nyx's room, dark bedrooms, the dining hall, the ball room which lights up with water at night, the garden and that field. Just beautiful. Oh I don't think I've ever been in love with the portrayal of a house/castle so much I wanted to move there, but only if Ignifex would be kind enough to proviide me with a wifi connection.
I would recommend it to readers who enjoy exploring fairytales with a mythology variation. Don't miss this incredible debut novel!