Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 342
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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.

If we're being completely honest with each other, my buying Cruel Beauty was kind of a happy accident. See, I had gotten a promotional gift card to Barnes and Noble and had gone in to buy a different book. Unfortunately, there were only two copies of that one and both were in pretty poor condition. So I looked around and spotted this one, which had been on my to-read list for close to a year. I'm not sure why I hadn't picked it up sooner. Perhaps it had something to do with my Beauty and the Beast obsession and not wanting to hate it. After I bought this book, I stared at it on the shelf for about a week before I finally decided to open to chapter one. I am so glad I did!

Rosamund Hodge has created a world in Cruel Beauty that was 100% not what I was expecting. The story is dark and creepy and the characters are not the kind that you would want to love. I knew from the very first page that this book would be different. Arcadia was such a mystery but I felt like I could picture it completely in my head! I've never even heard of hermeticism, but Hodge did a fantastic job of explaining it and keeping it interesting. This is definitely one of those books that makes me sit back and think every time I close it and wonder where in the world the author could have come up with such an amazingly unique story. The combination of mythology and fairy tale, while complex, worked so well and, as a classics buff, I was totally intrigued. Rosamund Hodge really knows her myths, unlike some other authors who have tried similar techniques.

The romance between Nyx and Ignifex, The Gentle Lord, was kind of strange. Then again, so was everything else. I couldn't put my finger on the moment when Nyx started to love Ignifex and I'm not entirely sure that it was love in the beginning. Like I said, these aren't characters that make you want to love them initially. Nyx was a bitch, but in a way that was totally sympathetic. Ignifex was mysterious, sometimes a little frightening, and charming for reasons I really can't identify, but I love him! Shade was equally mysterious and exciting. The love triangle in the book also worked for me, and they can definitely be pretty hit or miss.

I loved the subtle nods to Beauty and the Beast - the mirror Nyx used to see her sister, the witch's (Kindly One's) curse, the rose(s), the Gentle Lord's cat-like eyes (okay, maybe that's just me wanting to see him as the Beast). I also really loved that it was nothing like what I was expecting!

As each piece of the mystery was revealed, I felt confused at first. Once I let it sink in though, I didn't have any issues understanding what was happening. I really appreciate that everything wasn't overly spelled out or dumbed down. There was a terrifying moment near the end when I thought it was over and was ready to throw the book across the room, but then Rosamund Hodge graciously softened the blow.

Cruel Beauty was a totally amazing book. Now that it's over, I'm not sure if I should be happy that it was wrapped up at the end or sad that it isn't a trilogy. I know that I definitely want to read more from this author and soon! I highly recommend this book to... anyone! Everyone should read this book!