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Saturday, 4 February 2017

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


Book: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Release Date: January 28th 2014

 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 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’ve noticed that a big seller for YA romance is fairy tale retellings. There’s something about them that appeals to readers so very much. Maybe it’s the fact that we already know the story and love them, and that with each retelling that comes out, every author handles it a different, unique way, while still maintaining the original heart and soul of the fairy tale.

I’ve read a good few fairy tale retellings, with some of my favourites including Ella Enchanted, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the Lunar Chronicles series. I’ve had Cruel Beauty on my TBR for quite some time, as Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales and I was so excited to see how Rosamund Hodge could make it her own.

And within the first few chapters it’s so easy to see how Hodge made Cruel Beauty so different to other retellings. Our protagonist, Nyx, has been promised to marry a demon Lord that reigns over their kingdom after a foolish bargain by her father. Knowing that her true mission is to kill the demon, while killing herself in the process, Nyx has grown into a sour, resentful girl and is understandably cruel to those around her. Yes, she’s a bitch, and unlikable at times, but having had no love and affection from her father and seeing her sister get all the attention and opportunities she would never get, Nyx is incredibly misunderstood. While some may hate her for being so harsh to her family, I just nodded and knew that if I were in her situation, I would probably act the same.

When Nyx’s wedding day finally arrives, and she comes face to face with the monster she’s got to destroy, she finds out he is nothing like she expected.

Everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast. The Beauty slowly grows to love the Beast despite his monstrous face and sees the caring man he is underneath. This book takes a roundabout approach to that method. It’s not a love story, but more of a lust story. Nyx knows that the Gentle Lord has done horrible things to the people in the kingdom, and she’s not afraid of telling him how much she hates him. Yet, over time, while she still hates him, she’s also still feels something very physical for him whenever she’s near him.

The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, seems to fit the bill of villain very well. He doesn’t reveal anything about himself, but as he spends more time with Nyx, her honest and harsh personality rubs off of him, and he feels he can trust her as he knows she will never lie to him. As we spend more time with him, and we see their relationship grow, it’s easy to pity his character and cheer for them to get their happy ending.

This is a story about sacrifice and pain. There doesn’t seem to be any way out, and no hope. Hodge manages to keep the heart of the fairy tale, and changes aspects to make it much darker, yet very intriguing. It could be quite hard to read sometimes, but it was so worth it in the end. The characters all grow on you and you see their growth. They don’t hide away or try to excuse their flaws; they accept them as part of who they are and they love each other regardless.

This is definitely a retelling worth reading.

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