Written by: Rosamund Hodge
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Release date: January 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
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
My feelings towards Cruel Beauty are extremely complicated — or rather, extremely diverse. There were things I really enjoyed, which make me want to rate this one 4 stars; but on the other hand, there are things that really frustrated me, which make me want to rate it… well. Lower.
One unexpected thing, which I really enjoyed, was the Greek mythology that’s woven into the story. I had assumed that this would be a straightforward retelling in a sort of newish world, and I totally didn’t see the Greek stuff coming at all. Actually, I’m pretty sure there were also a few other fairy tales in there, too. But yeah, I really liked everything about the worldbuilding and mythology, and I found that really engaging even when the characters or story got kind of frustrating.
Another thing that surprised me was the love triangle — yes, there is one. Wellll… kind of. And I appreciated that it wasn’t actually your normal love triangle. I’m not sure if I’ve made up my mind yet, on whether it’s a good-different or bad-different sort of situation, but if nothing else, I do think it makes for a pretty interesting part of the story.
My only real problem with any of the romance in Cruel Beauty is the insta-love (and I do mean insta-love). First there’s Ignifex, the evil Lord Nyx is trying to overthrow, and whom Nyx is very much dead-set against falling for. Aaaaand… then there’s Shade. Nyx’s reaction to Shade was insta-love in the extreme — it was jarring and felt really odd (honestly, her character didn’t really make sense to me at all — more on that later). Her relationship with Ignifex wasmiles better, for me. Actually, Ignifex was probably my favorite character in the whole book — at first he’s pretty much what you’d expect from the “beast” character, maybe a little more manipulative and cunning. But then as you learn more about him and his situation, he grew on me a lot. So I’m a fan of his for sure.
Nyx herself was extremely hair-pull-inducing. She seemed to be constantly changing her mind and feelings. I’ve heard some people say that this makes her more believable, which I can buy to an extent — feelings are complicated. I get that. But to me, her wildly changeable feelings felt extremely jarring, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around her. Also, her actions consistently contradicted what she’d been brought up and trained from birth to do. She’s been preparing to overthrow Ignifex for years, and within the first few days of arriving at his palace, she turns into someone who loses sight of her goals in favor of being emotionally strung out about Ignifex and Shade. She still tries to do what she’s been trained to do in order to overthrow Ignifex, but it never felt like a priority, or like there was any kind of tension behind it. Which was disappointing.
I’m also not a huge fan of Cruel Beauty‘s ending, like… at all. Having guessed how the “love triangle” would play out, that resolution was a little anti-climactic for me. I actually grew to love Ignifex by the end, and so… you know, at the end, how the beast has to change back into the wonderful prince? Yeah… I kind of didn’t want him to. -_-
Also, the resolution to Nyx’s town’s/world’s predicament was handled in a way that I never enjoy… I know that’s just my own pet peeve, but still. (Vague spoilers ahead…) View Spoiler »It really annoys me when the resolution to any plot is to use some kind of Big Red Reset Button to “fix” everything. I always feel like it ruins the story that preceded it, and this case was no different. « Hide Spoiler
As a result of this mode of resolution, there are a bunch of weird character-“development” twists at the end, which I thought were a liiiitle too convenient. Maybe the conclusion was too rushed to really deal with these changes appropriately… I feel like probably not, though. It felt strange and disorienting, and that’s not how I like books to be resolved.
I’ve never felt so completely torn about a book before. Most of what I explained above is negative, yes, and I feel very strongly about those things: I did not enjoy those things. But… the things I did enjoy — Ignifex himself, and the Greek mythology, OH!! and Ignifex’s castle with its changing rooms and staircases (that was awesome) — I really enjoyed those things. Like, 4-star-level enjoyed them — they’re what kept me interested in Cruel Beauty, to be honest. I still can’t get over (what I see as) Nyx’s inconsistencies of character, or the way the resolution was handled… But I can’t get over Ignifex or the mythology either. So, though there were things that disappointed me overall, I think I’d still recommend this book if those sound like things you’d enjoy, as well.