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 had been on my radar for a while, as I can never say no to retellings, and Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales (in part because I wanted a library like the one in the Disney version). Unfortunately, I’m still on the fence about this one – I think I liked it, but I’m also still kind of confused about what happened?
Things I liked:
– Gorgeous and lyrical writing. I loved Hodge’s word choices – whether used in vivid descriptions or as the names of characters.
– Flawed, wicked characters. Nyx, in particular, is angry, contemptuous, and not particularly likeable, but her actions definitely reflected her situation. And the Gentle Lord has a penchant for deceiving those who make bargains with him, making for some interesting curses.
– The mythology. The addition of Hermetic magic and Demon Princes was intriguing, and put an interesting spin on the Beauty and the Beast tale.
Things that didn’t work for me:
– The mythology. It was interesting and ambitious, but it felt like Hodge was trying to do way too much at once, and it ultimately left me confused.
– The world-building left a lot to be desired. The magic system, in particular, was not very well-developed, and I can’t help but feel that it could have been stronger if a new religious system was put into place instead of relying on the Greek Gods.
– The romance. There was so much and the story was quickly bogged down by a love triangle that I was not invested in.
– The ending. Nyx had a lot of revelations, but unfortunately, I didn’t; I honestly don’t know what happened or why, and I can’t really be bothered to re-read it to find out.
Overall, Cruel Beauty was beautifully written and ambitious, but the confusing nature of the story and the overwhelming romance made it difficult to enjoy at times.