Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Series: Standalone, although apparently there are going to be companions set in the same universe
Published: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
352 pages (eARC)
Genre: Young adult fantasy/romance/fairytale retelling/mythology
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
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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 was thrilled when I first heard about Cruel Beauty. Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favourite fairytales, and even though there are quite a few retellings, I don’t think I’d read any of them. With its beautiful writing and memorable story, I'm glad Cruel Beauty was my first.

I liked Nyx a lot, and I appreciated that she was a character with a darker side. Her anger and bitterness and resentment came across really well, and I found it easy to sympathize with her. She was a multifaceted character, and I loved her feistiness and her spunk. Her interactions with Ignifex were my favourite parts of the book. They were absolutely hilarious together, but they also had great chemistry. Ignifex was completely unlike any other love interest/villain I’ve read, and I loved him immediately, even though, like Nyx, I knew I shouldn’t.  

While I loved the characters, the book starts out quite slow. There’s a fair bit of info-dumping at first; it feels like you have to slog through back story and scene-setting before getting to the actual story, but once you get through that it picks up. There’s also a bit too much inner dialogue, and it’s quite repetitive - Nyx goes over the same thing in her mind over and over again, which gets a bit tiresome.

The book had sort of an ageless quality to it. It didn’t feel like YA, which isn’t a criticism, but I often found myself forgetting how old Nyx was supposed to be, and thinking she was an adult rather than a teen.

Even though I’m (shamefully) not all that familiar with Greek mythology, I liked how it was woven through the story. The ancient lore and gods were a bit part of society and everyday life, and I found it an interesting and unique twist. The plot kept me guessing, and even though I was pretty sure I had one thing figured out, there were still lots of surprises along the way. 

I was a little bit confused toward the end. I couldn’t wrap my head around a couple things that happened. Whether that’s just me being dense or a common problem with other readers, I’m not sure, but I found myself going ‘Wait, what? How’d that happen exactly?’ I feel like I know where the author was going and I appreciate it, but I didn’t fully grasp it. I enjoyed the actual ending, especially since I didn’t know how things would turn out.

Cruel Beauty, while it has its faults, was overall very enjoyable. It wove together romance, mystery, action, and fantasy, and I loved that there were so many different elements to the story. Once I got past the slow beginning, I was completely enchanted. If you enjoy fairytale retellings with a unique twist, great characters, and beautiful writing, I’d recommend giving Cruel Beauty a try. 

 3.75 stars
Have you read Cruel Beauty? What did you think? If you haven't read it, does it sound like something you'd be interested in? Do you like fairytale retellings? How about stories that weave in mythology?

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed Cruel Beauty and the writing style. Like you, I enjoyed that the characters were flawed, and a bit dark. Wonderful review, Marie. :)


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