Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (Review)

Young Adult, Fairytale, Retelling, Fantasy
Publication.Date:January 28, 2014
Pages:336 (ARC eBook)
Published By:  Balzer + Bray
Website:Rosamund Hodge 

Cruel Beauty on Goodreads
My review copy:
Provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Where to get:

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.

I could almost pretend that Father was trying to show how much he loved me, or at least how much he honored my sacrifice. But I knew, as soon as I saw Astraia sitting red-eyed at the table, that the dinner was all for her sake.
O my mother, forgive me that I do not remember you. Guide me on all the ways that I must walk. Grant me strength, that I may avenge you. You bore me nine months, you gave me breath, and I hate you.
His breath tickled my neck, and I flinched. Now he was at my side, leaning over me as he said, "I'm curious. What advice did your aunt give you anyway?"

Strategy was suddenly nothing to me. I snatched my fork and tried to stab him.

He caught my wrist just in time. "That's a little different."
"The better to kill me in my sleep?"

"It would be rude to wake you first."
"You are losing your ability to terrify me," I observed after his apple tower had fallen twice.

"That is the problem with a wife who survives so long."

"Have I set some sort of record?"

"Two of them lasted longer. But not by much."

Such a beautiful cover for a book I felt so meh about . . . I wanted to love this story so much, but I just could not get into is. I ended up finishing the story, despite my desperate need to DNF, but I would say I skimmed more than I actually read.

Cruel Beauty is not your typical Beauty and the Beast retelling, which was a factor I did enjoy. Nyx has been "trained" since she was nine years old to kill the Gentle Lord once she marries him - part of a bargain her father made long before she was born. She is meant to avenge her mother's death and save their people from 900 years of being ruled by the Gentle Lord and tormented by his demons. Of course, once she becomes his captive wife, they soon fall in love with one another and Nyx becomes torn as to whom she should betray: her kingdom or her husband.

It took me about a week to get through this book. I'd read a little, get bored and put it down, read a little, get bored and put it down . . . you get the idea. I finally sat down on a Sunday and forced myself to finish it. I wanted to like it, I really really did.

I have a hard time connecting with our main character, Nyx. Yes, she's in a terrible situation and has the fate of herself and her kingdom on her shoulders, but I find her so wishy-washy that it was beyond frustrating. She loves Ignifex, screw the kingdom. But this is her kingdom and she has a duty, screw Ignifex. I honestly found zero redeeming qualities about her character and just wanted to punch her in the face. I found Ignifex to be far more interesting than Nyx herself, but we only saw him interacting with Nyx and it tarnished my enjoyment of his character.

I was also pretty bummed by the romance. There was no slow burn the accompanies the tale of Beauty and the Beast, a slight love triangle - no love triangles in this tale as old as time! - and the mention of "love" on her first night.  It wasn't quite the insta-love that I have seen in some novels, but it was pretty darn close. While Nyx was there for a couple months before anything actually happened, there wasn't a lot that actually happened between the two of them to make the relationship believable. It was like Nyx went to bed one night hating Ignifex and planning to kill him, then woke up completely in love.

The writing however was beautifully done. Rosamund did a nice job of creating a new world that held elements of dystopia, fantasy, mythology, and classic fairy tales. While I had mostly skimmed the book, something kept me skimming and I believe a large part of that was due to her writing style. I didn't love Cruel Beautybut nor did I hate it. That being said I think it's worth trying it out for yourself and chances are I'll be giving Gilded Ashes a chance.

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