Joint Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Publisher: Balzar & Bray
Where did you get the book: e-ARC from publisher
Release date: Out now

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.

cruelbeautyBased 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.

Lou: I loved the premise of Cruel Beauty. It pushed all of my OHMYFREAKINGYES buttons. And while I did enjoy Cruel Beauty, I have to admit that the book left me confused in lots of places, especially towards the end. Nyx had been betrothed to Ignifex since birth. Ignifex is the Prince of Demons. No one could look upon him or his shadow demons for madness will reign down upon those that did.

EVIL DEMON ALERT.

But her loving father chose Nyx as Ignifex’s betrothed in payment of the deal he made with Ignifex so he and his wife could have babies. But then she died. There is always a horrible payback when you make the deal with the devil. That left Nyx feeling conflicted in her feelings towards her sister because she wasn’t chosen as the demon’s payment. Nyx is a character that I would describe as prickly, and sometimes not in the best way. On one hand I couldn’t help but be sympathetic because her father was a bastard, but on the other hand she sometimes irritated me. I suppose this book was very YAish in terms of the character of the heroine. She was very up and down in her moods and hullo love triangle.

Has: I totally agree with you on all points. I also loved the premise and I think the author did a fantastic job in incorporating different types of myths, especially the Greek ones, into the world-building and in a lot of ways mirroring the plot. I also felt the heroine, Nyx, was hard to like in the beginning; she was so twisted and bitter about her fate of being married off to the demon lord that it took awhile for me to be sympathetic towards her. But once the mystery of the plot started to unfold, she began to show vulnerability and that is when the book soon became engrossing because the world that Hodge laid out was beautiful, dark and terrifying in some places.

However, I did feel the love triangle that was set up didn’t pan out as well for me and that is because both love interests (although I loved the duality of the themes they represented, which is a heavy motif in this book) wasn’t set up very well. There was instant love although I felt this more like instant lust because there was no real emotions being developed very well nonetheless, for one love interest there is more time in expanding in their relationship later in the book. While the other love interest kind of dropped out of the narrative and reappeared towards the end of the book, and he felt more like a plot device and an example of the themes of duality than a real aspect.

Lou: The setting and the idea behind the worldbuilding was a thing of beauty. I don’t want to spoil readers but there’s an awesome twist to the setting and if this ever got turned into a film, the imagery would be stunning. I loved the characters of Shade and Ignifex but I didn’t like the love triangle. The blurb of this book makes Nyx to be this killer who has trained all her life. But there are no fighting scenes that show this and I was disappointed. I was expecting Nyx to be this sword wielding kickass heroine but nothing develops. As for the love triangle, I wasn’t keen (surprise surprise) because there was no time to develop each relationship. It was done very quickly and Nyx falls in love too easily. She’s trapped in this wonderful and crazy castle that is a maze, and she falls in love with Shade. It felt superficial, and the love triangle diminished Nyx’s character in my eyes because she was conflicted between the both of them. The reason I say this is because she’s trapped inside a castle with a demon–her husband. I would suspect love would be the last thing on her mind.

Has: I loved the world-building and I agree the castle and world that surrounds it was rich and vivid with the imagery and it was amazing how Hodge tied this all in with the myths of Hades and Persephone and Beauty and the Beast fairytale. I would have loved to see more of the magical abilities that Nyx practiced because I was really intrigued with how this tied in with the world-building and the elemental powers of the castle itself.

I am trying not to broach into huge spoiler territory here and I won’t go into details because it concerns the ending of the book. After a couple of days since reading this book, I am still trying figure out the ending, as well as figuring out my feelings towards it. Although it wasn’t so much of Deus Ex Machina ending, it felt like one for me and I am in two minds on how the book ended because it was vague and confusing. I am not sure I liked the message with the romance although I get what the author wanted to do but because the romance was flawed. I don’t think it carried well throughout the ending and I don’t like the vagueness. That is not to say that its not a happy ending and like the Beauty and the Beast telling I suppose most readers will be happy with it. But I think there was so much thought and detail with the worldbuilding and it was wonderfully layered and multi-faceted that I think the romance aspect of the story was lacking, and I don’t think there was a strong enough of an ending because of that abruptness. If there was a novella or epilogue post ending showing the events and the fallout of what had happened, I think I would be more satisfied.

Lou: I feel awful for writing this but I was left feeling so confused towards the end of the book. I have no clue on what happened. It was way too convoluted and while I appreciated what the author tried to do with Shade and Ignifex, I felt as if the book was trying to be too clever. Or I’m very dumb. I feel frustrated because I can’t write my thoughts on the ending because I still don’t really understand what happened. And despite the fact there’s some wonderful and great ideas in this book, the ending of the book felt like a letdown.

Don’t read this book for a romance; read it for the worldbuilding which was pretty awesome. But also be aware that if you’re like me, you’ll feel like a dummy towards the end. I give Cruel Beauty a B for the worldbuilding but a C for everything else.

Has: I also have mixed feelings about the book. The prose, the world, and the myths that were intertwined with it and the rich imagination of Hodge was just freaking awesome but the ending and the romance was a bit of a letdown for me. I think the way the book ended so abruptly, I wished there was more to expand on that because I was left dissatisfied with the message it had. But overall, Cruel Beauty is set in a backdrop of a lush and vivid world. I would certainly would read more of Rosamund Hodge’s books especially in this world. And even though I have qualms about the romance, I think Cruel Beauty is definitely worth reading just to envision the world and its magic because it was definitely unique!

I give Cruel Beauty a C+/B-

Comments

  1. Aimee @ Read by the Undead says

    I seem to have enjoyed this one more than you! I agree that the love triangle was done poorly, but I did adore the world building and the characters as individuals–Ignifex especially. Nyx was alright. The ending was pretty confusing. Lovely review, guys!

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