February 23, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty

Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale/Retelling
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC from Publisher


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.

Cruel Beauty is a young adult fantasy/fairy tale retelling of the timeless classic "Beauty and the Beast" - but with a new spin. Like most of my fellow book lovers, "Beauty and the Beast" has always been my favorite fairy tale, mostly because of the moral lesson that it teaches - basically not to judge by appearances. I loved that the author stuck really close to the original story line of the tale, not the sugar-coated Disney version. The setting was magnificent! I loved how the author created the castle in the book - how it appeared as ruins from the outside, but the inside was an ever-changing marvel of a palace. Awesome! I loved exploring the castle with Nyx and finding all the different rooms. The descriptions were written with great details and vivid imagery, so it was easy to immerse myself into the story alongside Nyx. Speaking of her, she was a perfect lead character. I feel like she's one of the most realistic ones I've ever read about. She has great qualities - her loyalty to her family, her village, her strength and determination and her intelligence. On the other hand, she had some flaws and wasn't afraid to voice her opinions about them. She was jealous of her sister and kind of envied her for her ignorance and innocence. She also felt incredibly bitter and angry towards her family - her father, aunt, and sister - because they treated her as a weapon against Ignifex - and not much else. Nyx also goes against the plan when she begins to have feelings for her husband, whom she's supposed to be murdering. All in all, she was a complex character with a well rounded personality. Ignifex was a jerk, for the most part. I just don't see the appeal in bad boys - I never have. I can kinda see how Nyx could start becoming confused by his attitude and actions and eventually fall in love with him. It's all part of the story - to see past outward appearances to what really lies within. Still - he was a jerk for a good portion of the book and there were points when I wanted to stab him myself.

The author made an interesting little mystery behind the history of the village and the island - how it became isolated from the rest of the world and ruled over by this terrible guy. I found it all really interesting and loved learning all about how the royal family fell and how the Gentle Lord and the other rulers came to be. I liked trying to figure out what was really going on inside the castle and what the deal was with Ignifex and Shade - who they really were and they got that way. The end of the story surprised me. I don't want any spoilers, but when a huge decision is made, the characters and the reader don't know what will happen afterwards. I liked the twist that it threw into the story and how it made the ending play out as well. Not exactly a perfectly happy ending, but a possible one. Definitely one of the best fairy tale retellings I've read and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves new spins on old tales or just a great fantasy book to get lost inside!

* A HUGE thanks to the awesome people at HarperTeen for sending me a copy for review!*

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