Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty

Rosamund Hodge

 Published Date: January 28th 2014

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Pages: 342

Genre:  Fairy tale, Mythology, Fantasy-esqe, Romance, Young Adult
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.
I love the setting and world building of this book. Hodge is absolutely brilliant. It’s part fantasy, part historical fiction, part mythological retelling and part fairytale retelling. In the story, Arcadia is an island off of Greece, sharing in their mythology after the mainland had come to influence and conquer, yet also keeping their own hedge gods. It was a prosperous place until something, no one knows exactly what, happened at the castle, the sky went from blue to parchment, demons came to torture the minds of those the caught and the Gentle Lord came to bargain and rule.

Nyx is around because of one of those bargains, and her fate is sealed because of it as well. She must go off to the castle and marry the Gentle Lord, the one in charge of the demons. She is sent so that her sister can live happily and coddled and so that she can attempt to bring back the blue skies by defeating the house or the Gentle Lord himself.

As a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, it is certainly one of the best and is my favourite. I like it for many of the same reasons why I like The Lunar Chronicles, it’s not a straightforward retelling and instead is very imaginative and clever.

The fairy tale and amazing world aside, however, it’s our main characters, Nyx and Ignifex, the Gentle Lord, who are really the stars of the show. There is a realness and complexity to these characters. They are far from perfect, they are even downright nasty sometimes, but they are learning to accept that in themselves and in each other. They were a joy to read in their growth as separate characters and as a couple.

If you like Beauty and the Beast, read this book, but even if you’re not into fairytales, if you enjoy fantasy mixed with mythology, or just great characters and a great couple, I highly recommend this book. It’s world is amazing and unique and it’s characters layered and real.



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