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.
Firstly, I was very hesitant to read Cruel Beauty. I read some very mixed reviews and that it included a love triangle, which I absolutely loathe. But in the end I was too intrigued and gave it a shot and I’m so glad I did.
As you can tell from the blurb, this is a kind of Beauty and the Beast retelling. Once upon a time, Nyx’s father made a bargain with The Gentle Lord; his wife would get pregnant and they would have two daughters. In exchange, The Gentle Lord would have one of the daughters to marry once she turns seventeen. As in every story, no bargain is so simple. The wife died giving birth to her daughters.
Seventeen years later, the time has come for Nyx to marry The Gentle Lord and go live with him. She has been told all her life that it was her duty to save her kingdom, even if she has to die in order to do so. But what Nyx finds that neither The Gentle Lord -Ignifex- nor his castle are what she expected. Now, while exploring the enchanted castle and uncovering ancient secrets, Nyx has to decide whether to fulfill what has always been expected of her or follow her heart’s desire.
In my opinion, there’s two main reasons this book was a success: the characters and the writing. I love morally complex books, and Nyx, Ignifex and Shade are very intricately written characters that suck you into the story, and leave you desperately wanting to know more about them after every page.
Nyx, unlike the original Beauty, has darkness in her heart. And why wouldn’t she? She’s been told since she was a child that her only purpose in life is to marry and destroy Ignifex. Her father never showed her the love he bestowed upon her sister, only trained and raised her to lead her to her own doom. She battled with feelings of anger, guilt, hatred, selfishness, kindness, self loathing and responsibility. Her relationship with her family is very complicated, she harbors bitterness towards them, but she feels especially guilty that she feels that way towards her sister. Watching her cope with these emotions is very intriguing, heart-wrenching and eye opening. It was so refreshing reading about a female character who knows that she has some darkness in her and actually accepts that part of her, after all she’s only human. She doesn’t act like a martyr, she does what needs to bee done, and while she might sometimes be overly aggressive she isn’t cruel or unkind to anyone undeserving. I could go on and on about her actually but then I would never finish.
Ignifex -The Gentle Lord- was very, very difficult to like in the beginning. Don’t expect to see the misunderstood Beast in this story because you won’t explicitly find him. Ignifex is also a very complex character and it’s easy to see his logic but not easy to understand. He makes bargains with people who call to him, and while they may have pure intentions they are sadly misguided, and to him these people deserve what they get for trying to-more or less-cheat at life. There’s also the other side of him which beautifully connects and entangles with Nyx’s light and dark side. The caring, gentle, protective and thoughtfulness he shows. In addition to his fierce, cunning, and seductive nature.
Shade-Ignifex’s-servant/shadow is a complete enigma. From the start, readers never know the whole truth about him until the very end. And the shocking revelation left me satisfied.
As I mentioned in the beginning of my review, there is a bit of a love triangle in this book. But there isn’t anything typical and traditional about it.
Like the rest of the book, the romance-love triangle included-is very complex and elaborate. The relationships are based on more than just love. Trust, compatibility and unconditional love are only some of the factors that Hodge weaves into the intricate romance of this book.
The romance is also very linked to the characters themselves, rather than just random feelings or mere circumstance. There’s also an important and controversial question asked: Should you fall in love with someone kind but doesn’t really know you, or somebody wicked who loves you regardless of your own darkness?
Sometimes when authors try to write poetically, they lose sight of their story and the plot, writing and characters all get jumbled up and lost within each other. But in Cruel Beauty the poetic writing was done beautifully and it was actually one of the best things about it. Hodges writing hypnotizes readers and draws them into a beautiful world of beautiful monsters, starless skies and lethal love.