Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

January 17, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 22 ★★★½

I received this book for free from From Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Cruel BeautyCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: From Publisher
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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 admit I have not read too many fairy tale retellings and those I have read have not been quite what I was expecting. It’s turned me off to them a bit, unfortunately. But Cruel Beauty enticed me with it’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a wonderful fantastical and mythological edge.

Due to a deal gone wrong cast by her father, our main character Nyx must marry the prince of demons. Obviously jaded with the lack of love and regret from her father and with a twin sister who was spared at her expense, Nyx struggles with what her fate might be. Her father has trained her with the hopes she can defeat this evil lord and save their kingdom, but it seems like a long shot to all. How exactly the evil prince of demons came to be and what terrible fate the kingdom has suffered on his behalf all has to deal with a lot of mythology. I admit this often went way above my head. I had a hard time piecing little bits together but for the most part I got the gist of it. It was pretty fascinating how it was all told and even beautiful despite the complexity.

Given a key to unlock certain doors in the castle she was permitted to enter, Nyx goes on an adventure of sorts to discover the hidden rooms that can help her defeat her husband. A lot of my favorite moments of the book dealt with what Nyx would find behind these doors. A beautiful lake, a mysterious mirror and all sorts of interesting places were revealed and the author had such a way of describing them that I had such a vivid picture in my mind. In fact a lot of the story read very much like a movie I could see unfolding in my head. It was quite amazing.

As far as the characters go, Nyx was interesting in a way where she was strong and determined but also capable of regret and indecision. But she was so good at putting up that confident front and not letting her fear show. I admired that about her. The prince of demons, whom she was to call Ignifex, was evil but mildly so once I was able to humanize him. It was obvious he had a softer side for Nyx, despite her relentless pursuit to destroy him. I really loved the scenes they shared and their banter. It was obvious their hatred was transforming to lust and love and I enjoyed watching that progress.

Some of the storyline was a bit predictable but that part didn’t bother me in the slightest. Really my only issue was how hard it was to keep up with the mythology and a few explanations at the end that left me scratching my head a bit. My simple mind was working overtime and couldn’t quite keep up. But on a whole I found the story extremely interesting. The Beauty and the Beast touches were less than I originally expected but really just right in the end. I even felt a bit of Rumplestiltskin thrown in? Which was entertaining and amusing to me since the beast and Rumplestiltskin are the same person on the tv show Once Upon a Time that I like to watch. I’d absolutely recommend this to fans of fantasy novels and anyone looking for a unique spin on a fairy tale.


About Rosamund Hodge

I love mythology, Hello Kitty, and T. S. Eliot. My debut novel, CRUEL BEAUTY (a YA fairytale fantasy, where Greek mythology meets Beauty and the Beast), is due out from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins in Winter 2014.

Sara @ Forever 17 Books

22 Responses to “Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge”

  1. Bekka

    I loved this one! I agree with you that retellings are usually a miss for me. I haven’t read very many, but I can’t think of one that I actually LOVED. Nyx wasn’t my favorite character, but I loved how realistically she was portrayed – like you said, her indecision and anger made her very real for me. The end was a bit confusing, but I do plan on rereading this one so I can get a better understanding. It seems like this book would be a good one to go over again at least once, knowing the ending, and seeing how beautifully all the pieces fit.

    Great review, Sara!
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  2. Emily @ Forever Literary

    Hmm, explanations that leave me scratching my head are never a good sign because the most important thing to me in fantasy/science fiction is understanding the world in which it takes place. However, you make this book sound intriguing otherwise – I think I’ll love the two sides of Nyx that you hinted on – so I’m looking forward to reading this anyway. I’m glad you enjoyed this book, and thanks for letting me know what to expect!
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  3. Sara @ The Hiding Spot

    I like retellings, so I’ve been interested in this one for awhile, but all these positive reviews are convincing me that I really have to make time to read this! Although, your review does make me slightly nervous that I’ll be overwhelmed by the mythology, like you were! :/ Great review, Sara!
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  4. Lauren

    I’m glad you enjoyed this! It sounds like it might be overly complex, and I wonder if I’ll also be scratching my head at some of the mythology, but it also sounds beautifully written and interesting. I love fairy tale retellings, so I requested an ARC of this, and your review has me very excited to move it up my TBR pile. Lovely review!
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  5. tonyalee

    Yeah, I get what you mean about the explanations about everything. It was a lot to take in and piece together. I’m glad you enjoyed it overall though 🙂

    Great review

  6. Pam@YAEscapefromReality

    I’ve enjoyed the few retellings I’ve read and I think that’s mostly because they’re more inspired than just the same story with a few differences. Sounds like this one is the former since you mention The Beauty and the Beast touches were less than you were expecting. The part about the doors sounds fascinating and the relationship and banter between Nyx and Ignifex sounds like something I will like as well. Great review!
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  7. starryeyedjen

    OH! I didn’t even think about the fact that the Beast and Rumple were one and the same and that it was sort of the same in this story! Great observation, Sara! I love OUaT, too…in fact, I finally caught up on the last two episodes I’d saved from before Christmas thinking that new eps were coming soon, only to find out that it’s not this week for sure. Bummer. Anyway, I hope that this novel has made you curious for other retellings…I wasn’t always a fan but all it takes is a good one to change that. 🙂
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  8. Aman

    Yes on everything! Even though I ended up enjoying this book a bit more than you, my issues were the same. There was so much info dumb in the beginning and the end that I had to read passages over and over again to completely get it. Still I’m very confused with what happened in the end. I think it’s one of those books where a reread will make the experience much better. I loved Nyx! The demon dude was great as we’ll but I really hated Nyx’s sister. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the next book. Great review, Sara!
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  9. Olivia (Bookcomet)

    I’ve never heard of Rumpelstiltskin being included in a book before which sounds kind of cool. It’s a shame you didn’t like it more than you did, I like retellings but I’m not a die-hard fan. I loved Cinder and Evernearth though. Great review 🙂

  10. Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books

    I seriously cannot wait to read this one. I love fairy-tale retellings and I love Greek mythology so this sounds like the perfect combination for me. Your review is the first that’s mentioned allusions to other fairy tales, though; that’s really interesting. Beauty being given keys and unlocking doors reminds me vaguely of Bluebeard too. I’ll have to try to piece together tales when I get around to reading this one!
    Great review, Sara. It sounds like there’s a lot to enjoy about this book, even if it wasn’t entirely your cup of tea.
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  11. Nova @ Out of Time

    A bunch of my twitter friends were RAVING about this one so I have no idea what to expect anymore. I’ve just read so many mixed reviews that it’s crazy.

    I’m getting the feeling that it might not be some peoples’ cup of tea only because it’s like high fantasy. I really like the synopsis and Ignifex seems to be a dream so yeah ;D

    Great review, Sara!
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  12. Jessica Nicole

    I’ve only briefly heard about this book, and it sounds like something I’d love! I love the fairy tale of beauty and the beast, and I love when characters fall for someone who their supposed to hate! I’m a little wary about how many things went over your head, because I can be very simple minded about stuff like that too, so I’ll likely feel the same way. I think it’s still worth a read though, since I end up confused over lots of books I still love. Definitely adding this to my tbr! Thanks for sharing.
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