January 5, 2014

Title: Cruel Beauty

Series: Cruel Beauty, Book One

Author: Rosamund Hodge

Expected Publication: January 28, 2014

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Pages: 352

Source: Edelweiss

Summary from Goodreads: Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

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.

Average Goodreads Rating (as of 01/04/2014): 3.97

  • Christina thought this title was amazing and different. It goes on her top shelf!

**SPECIAL NOTE:** An eARC of this title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Initial Thoughts and Rating: Actual rating of 4.5 stars! Cruel Beauty is a book that I wanted to literally crawl between the pages and get lost in. I would love a firsthand encounter with Ignifex and to be able to explore his castle with all the hidden doors and private places. I love Beauty and the Beast, and I thought this was a fantastic re-imagining of it.

The Lowdown: The only reason Nyx and her twin sister was ever born was because her father struck a foolish deal with the Gentle Lord, prince of demons. It was during this deal that her father promised this dark prince one of his daughter’s hand in marriage on her seventeenth birthday. Unfortunately, just because the Gentle Lord promised the man and wife daughters, he didn’t promise the mother would safely survive the birth. Astraia came out with the coloring and looks of their beloved mother, and so, the father couldn’t, nor would he ever want to, part with her because of it. Consequently, Nyx was left to bear the burden of becoming the Gentle Lord’s wife, and for all the days prior to meeting him, she was trained with one solitary purpose– to kill the prince of demons, thus seeking revenge for her mother’s death and ending his nine-hundred-year tyranny over Nyx’s homeland.

But when she meets this prince and even learns to like him, her mission becomes far more complicated than she ever could have imagined. Because, honestly, it’s hard to care for those who never seemed to care for you. Then it’s that pesky little detail about denying the heart’s want and selfish gain even if one’s mind is demanding retribution for the greater good.

My Thoughts: As this was to be my first read of 2014, I entered this book with a bit of trepidation because I rationalized that how I felt about this one book would set the tone for my entire year’s reading experience. Thankfully, I have every right to believe that 2014 will be a magical year because I was simply blown away by this novel. Rosamund Hodge immediately pulled me into her imaginative world with lush, enchanting descriptions, spell-bounding plot and writing, and entertaining characters.  I appreciated the dark undertones in her prose and the multifaceted aspects of characters where Nyx was the good girl with good intentions that also had a darker side and Ignifex was the dark hero with terrible intentions but had a charming, gentler side to him as well. I enjoyed watching the tug-of-war of their consciences play out and how they found better selves through their actions and because of each other. Not to mention, the banter between these two was some of the most delicious interactions that I’ve ever read. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them push each others’ buttons page after page; the chemistry between them was mesmerizing.

However, with all the good that makes Cruel Beauty such an interesting read, comes a little bit of what I wasn’t a fan of in this novel. One of my issues was the kinda-sorta-but-not-really love triangle. Technically, I’m a fan of triangles if they work well within the characterizations, but this one always felt weird to me. Now coming out at the end of Cruel Beauty, I can see why it was essential to the story, but also know why I never truly felt invested with Shade’s side to the romance angle. (Or, it could be because I always love an unapologetically darker villian with snark and charm; Ignifex has that on lockdown.) So, if the semi-love triangle is something that might keep you from reading it, just know that it’s easily resolved in the end and definitely makes sense.

I also feel like it’s worth mentioning that I loved the mythological and demon elements in this book. Usually I’d like to think myself a little well-versed in all the gods and demi-gods mentioned in the story, but I felt like it got a tad convoluted in some portions. There was a lot going on between keeping up with all the various beliefs and which townspeople believed in which god and how exactly it all linked into the story. Still, I loved how the author brought it all back together in the end, so despite a bit of mild confusion while reading, I was eventually able to follow along and enjoy it well enough.

Swoons: There are definitely some instances worth swooning over in this book. Ignifex is quite the charismatic creature.

Swoony Teaser: 

He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. “That’s what makes you my favorite.” He reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek with his thumb. “Every wicked bit of you.”
–quote taken from my eARC of Cruel Beauty at 53%

Rec It? Absolutely. I inhaled this book in a few short hours and I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. It was concluded in the perfect manner, and I was so happy to have taken this entrancing journey with these characters. I’m very much looking forward to more of Ms. Hodge’s work in the future.

A very special thanks to Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) & Edelweiss for allowing me to preview an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

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