Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (January 28, 2014)
Description: The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny.
But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom's mountaintop, nothing is as she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband.
Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can't resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who's gotten in her way by stealing her heart.
For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.
My Thoughts: CRUEL BEAUTY was an interesting reading experience for me. I am not sure what I think about the story. There were parts of the book I found tedious and I found myself putting the book down frequently to go do something - anything - else. But there was something, beyond my commitment to Amazon Vine to read and review all the books I pick, that kept me picking up the book again.
This book bears some similarities to Beauty and the Beast. Not in the characters though. Beauty was loving, selfless and honorable while Nyx was angry, resentful, and conflicted. Beauty was raised by a loving father; Nyx's father raised her to be a tool for his vengeance for a mistake that he made. Nyx never felt that he loved her or even saw her as a real person. The Beast was the victim of a curse; Ignifex was the victim of his own bargains.
The story takes place in a fairy tale world cut off from the real world. It is ruled by a demon called the Gentle Lord. Because of a bad bargain her father made, Nyx is required to marry the Gentle Lord which is a fate that frightens her. She has been trained to assassinate him which her father and his group believes will free their world to be part of the real world again.
When Nyx enters the castle she discovers her new husband who tells her to call him Ignifex and learns that she can be free if she guesses his name but will die if she guesses incorrectly. As they spend time together, Nyx begins to fall in love with him despite her vow to kill him. After all, he is the only one who sees all of her, both the evil and the good, and loves her anyway. But she also meets Shade who is Ignifex's shadow and who only becomes human at night. His kindness and willingness to help her to the limits of his ability makes Nyx fall in love with him too.
There were no heroes in this story. Everyone was some shade of villain. While this makes the story more realistic, it does make it harder to know who the reader should root for. Also, no one was quite who they seemed to be. Since the story is told in the first person from Nyx's point of view, we get to know her best. The only problem is that she doesn't know herself very well and she is so conflicted about what she wants to do. She is torn between her vows for vengeance and her love for Ignifex, her concern for the fate of her world and for her own happiness.
The story is complex and based on Greco-Roman mythology. Nyx needs to unravel clues and explore the castle to find out if she can keep her vow and kill Ignifex without destroying her whole world. While I resented the infodump that consumed the first two chapters of the book, it did provide necessary information about the world and the characters. I just think it could have been integrated more seamlessly into the story.
My favorite parts of the book were the conversations between Ignifex and Nyx as they were sparring and getting to know each other. They were like gold nuggets sprinkled through the story.
Readers who are fans of lush language and fantasy will enjoy this debut novel. While I didn't find it completely successful, I know I will be thinking about it for a long time.
I still wasn't sure that I loved him. Love—the kind that was holy to Aphrodite—was not something I had ever allowed myself to think about much. If you desired someone, if he comforted you, if you thought he might leech the poison out of your heart, was that love? Or only desperation?I got this ARC through Amazon Vine. You can buy your copy here.