ARC Review: CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge

I received this book for free from Balzer + Bray. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review: CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge
Cruel Beauty

Written by: Rosamund Hodge
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Release date: January 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Edelweiss
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
Also by this author: Crimson Bound

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 »

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.


In conclusion…

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.

13 thoughts on “ARC Review: CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge

  1. Ohh this was one of my highly anticipated reads! Too bad there were a few things you didn’t enjoy. I really don’t like insta love but def love greek mythology! I’ll try to temper my expectations a little when I get to reading this!

  2. Shade disturbed me from the beginning to the end of the book. I also loved the mythology in this one–super interesting! The romance, though… *cringes* was disgusting. Lovely review!

    • I actually liked Shade at first……. whoops! But yeah, not at all once we find out what’s going on. I did like Ignifex, though, especially towards the end.

      Thanks for stopping by, Aimee!

  3. You know, for some reason, even though the stuff with Shade & Nyx was very clearly insta-love, it didn’t annoy me at all. But that’s probably because I wasn’t a fan of shade and didn’t really care for their relationship at all to begin with. I agree with what you said about Nyx, but I actually really loved her. I wouldn’t want her to be my best friend, or anything, but she fascinated me.
    And yes, the changing castle was cool! Like Hogwarts!

  4. I was super excited for this book, so now I’ll tone down my expectations but I’ll definitely still give it a shot. “Convenient” plot twists/character changes always bug me…we’ll see if I end up liking this or just end up annoyed.
    I felt the same way about Wither (My Chemical Garden trilogy) – some things were really great, and other things were really annoying, and I just couldn’t decide on a rating. I think in the end I decided on a lower rating because there were so many inconsistencies.

  5. I feel the same as you do about this one. Shades storyline was bleh to me in every way. The insta love drove me crazy (and had me roll my eyes a few times). I loved the writing style and overall story arc…and the Gentle Lord was a pretty great bad guy. Great review and I’m sort of happy I’m not alone in not loving every aspect of this book.

  6. I actually really disliked this one a lot at first, also. The romance was a huge turn off because there was a kiss in, like what, the first thirty pages? But I grew to appreciate their relationship (I say their because I kind of think of Ignifex and Shade to be one person, whoops) in the end, especially when she is willing to give up everything for him. Great review!

  7. I know how you fell as I recently had a similar response when I read The Falconer by Elizabeth May. I love things about it but hated others and in the end the things I disliked really tainted the whole book for me, so I feel your pain!

    I have been drawn to Cruel Beauty myself and your review has given me plenty of food for thought!

    Thea from Gizzimomo’s Book Shelf

  8. Err, this sounds rather disappointing. I’ve been hearing everyone say that it’s awesome, and the cover is gorgeous and I love retellings; but I hate with the fire of a thousand suns MANY of the things that you mentioned. I can’t stand insta-love, and… well, I like characters to kind of know what they’re doing. And a love triangle? Ugh. Sometimes they work for me, but it doesn’t make sense to throw instalove AND a love triangle into a book. I DO love Greek mythology and retellings, though… so maybe. Anywho, awesome review! :)

  9. I actually loved this book, but it is definitely not for everyone. It’s strange and confusing at times, and you really have to just go with some of the things that happen in order to enjoy it. I liked the quirkiness of the characters and even though I didn’t like Nyx very much, I appreciated how different she is from most YA characters.

  10. OMG WE had the EXACT SAME ISSUES with this one^^ That’s spooky Nikki.

    The castle was basically what kept me reading. If I thought too much about the world and lack of…building, it made my head hurt. Just thinking about it could send me into a rant. I had to reign it in for my review and complain about other stuff too LOL! As for Nyx, well as much as I CAN get behind unlikeable characters, her constant back and forths were, well, weird o_O And that ‘reset-button’ trop man. Pet peeve right there. *throws book*

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