Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Monday, February 17, 2014
Why I chose this book:
A Beauty and the Beast retelling? Count me in! As a lover of books, obviously, my favorite Disney princess was Belle, so of course, I could not say no to something like this.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Format: Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairytale
Buy: B&N | Indiebound | Amazon
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. (Goodreads)
3 things you need to know about this book:

1. Nyx is not your generic protagonist.
I was both caught off guard and interested in Nyx’s character. She was so different from any other protagonist I had ever read.  She was mean, and hateful, and full of bitterness. That alone is opposite of the original tale (or at least what I remember of it). I remember her originally being innocent, kind, gracious, and angelic in action (or maybe that’s my Disney side talking); here, she is the exact opposite and has every intention of killing him. Even Ignifex’s character was similar. He was snide, mocking, and embittered. They both had such dark personalities that I found the fit each other even better than what I remember of the tale. I found this retelling fresh and welcoming.

2. The line is fuzzy between truth and lies.
One of the themes in this books is truth and lies. Truth is conveyed as hurtful, and so many lies are told in order to keep from hurting people. In relation, lies are presented as blissful ignorance. The more lies they are surrounded with, the less troubles they will have to deal with. At one point Nyx and Ignifex take advantage of this and lose themselves in happiness even though they know it is but a lie. This is a hard theme to tackle, and I won’t lie, it got confusing at times, but it was nonetheless interesting.

3. Curious adaptation.
This is one of the most original adaptations I have ever read. Earlier last week, I had reviewed an adaptation (Queen of Hearts: The Crown by Colleen Oakes), that in my opinion, was just badly written fan fiction. This was a retelling, but it held very little semblance to the original tale, which made it beautiful and completely Hodge’s. Instead of using characters from the original tale and adapting them to fit her story (like Oakes had), Hodge created wonderful characters to fit her story and didn’t worry about how they would fit into the original tale.

Even further, I love that this retelling was so immersed in Greco-Roman mythology. My English major heart ate this stuff up! I recognized names, deities, and myths that made this story more lively. It was something I welcomed and thought that it brought a wonderful dimension to Hodge’s creative world. 

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I believe this was very much a debut novel. It had its issues and was partial to its intricately confusing parts, such as the magical qualities present in this world, but it was nonetheless a beautiful retelling of flawed characters falling in love. Anyone who has the slightest affection for Beauty and the Beast or paranormal books, would like this one. But beware, this book is not for everyone. Upon opening the cover, you need to be open to differences and a magical realm that is nothing like you’ve ever read before.

I gave this book 4 (3.5 really) on my Goodreads.

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