Thursday, February 20, 2014

REVIEW: CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Genres: YA, Mythology, Fantasy
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 3/5


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 one of those rare novels with which I have a love-hate relationship. The moment I saw the breathtaking cover and read the synopsis, I added it to my 2014 book wishlist as a must-read. Having finished it mere moments ago, I have mixed feelings not just about the anti-climactic ending, but also about the story as a whole.

I think my main issue with this book is, though I got the gist of the story, I was also very confused by the storyline. I understood most of it, and I could see exactly where the author wanted to go with it, but it frustrated me that there were also more than enough instances where I was completely left in the dark. My frustration mounted with the torturously slow pacing, and often I was distracted and had to focus on finding my footing again. The story only hooked me around 65% into the book, and from start to end it is loaded – and I mean loaded – with angst. Never mind the angst, though, the insta-love and love-triangle, and Nyx’s indecisiveness whether she loves or hates Ignifex, Shade, and her family, was emotionally taxing – even more so because I’m not a fan of mushy, clich├ęd romance. The author tried very hard to make this a deep, meaningful romance in a story that is all about good and evil and beauty within, sacrifices and eternal love. Although she didn’t fail at this, it simply didn’t work for me because I was too distracted with everything I disliked about the romance.

However, I did appreciate the lyrical prose and poignant storyline, but it didn’t evoke any feels. I sort of liked Shade (more so in the beginning), and I loved Ignifex’s brazen, mocking taunts and the way he challenges Nyx (more so in the middle), but the closer I got to the conclusion, the less I started to care about these characters. Nyx confused and irritated me with her hot and cold indecisions, and I just didn’t get her. By the end I didn’t care about her, her family or her husband at all. Maybe it’s just me, but if the subtext is anything other than coming to terms with there not being a person alive with an entirely pure heart, I clearly missed whatever deeper meaning this story holds. I would have to actually care enough about the characters to understand any other deeper meanings hidden in this novel.

I was awed by the imaginative world-building and the elements of Greek mythology used as a foundation for it. I was fascinated with the world inside a world concept, and absolutely blown away by the splendor of the narrative. Cruel Beauty has a great number of highlights that makes it a profoundly memorable read, but in the end it wasn’t what I expected. I’d say it was the blatantly overdone romance and the instant love that spoiled it for me, but the sluggish pacing is also at fault here. Oh, and all the chapters spent detailing Nyx’s deep hatred for her family and her new husband which I feel could’ve been summarized skillfully in one or two chapters.

I’ve only read one other retelling of the Beauty and the Beast classic, and that is Beastly by Alex Flinn. If I had to choose which one to recommend between either Beastly or Cruel Beauty, I’d much rather recommend Flinn’s retelling of this much-loved classic. Still, I won’t deter anyone from reading Cruel Beauty either as it most certainly has its own merits if only for the concept, the world-building, the mythology elements, or the lovely prose. Cruel Beauty didn’t do anything for me, but I definitely want to read more novels written by this talented writer. 



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.

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1 comment:

The Cover Contessa said...

I really enjoyed this book. Actually, I could not put it down. It was dark and I am very into dark right now. I think you have to be in a certain mind set to really enjoy this one, though. I've seen mixed reviews.