Sunday, February 16, 2014

Review: CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperTeen)
Source: an ARC from Epic Reads because they're AWESOME.

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.

First line: I was raised to marry a monster.

You have to know something before you read this review or before you pick up the book: nothing can prepare you for the greatness of this book. I'm sorry, but it's true. If you have an experience like mine, you will find yourself completely in love with this book and confused as to why you didn't think you would be. It's not that I didn't have high expectations—I really did—or that I didn't read incredibly positive reviews—I read a lot—or that I was bracing myself just in case—okay, I might have a little bit, but not that much. I was simply blown away by my love for this book. 

Because her father made a foolish decision to bargain with "The Good Lord," Nyx has to marry the evil ruler with a "secret" agenda to murder him, which will absolutely lead to her death. She deals with resentment towards her favored twin sister, her aunt (who's shacking up with her widowed father), and her cold-hearted father (but who only acts that way to her). Then she has to marry the monstrous lord. Of course, we all know at least the outline of her journey because everyone is familiar with Beauty and the Beast. So we know.

Or do we? 

Beauty and the Beast is a common retelling, I think especially in YA fiction, and usually incorporates the same elements: girl sacrifices herself for her father, mysterious house, "evil" beast, enchanted mirror, forbidden rooms, trouble at home, and the beast needs help. Deep down, we can all be reassured that everything will work out because that's how it's supposed to go. Rosamund Hodge doesn't give us that reassurance, ladies and gents. Many times, I felt my whole body go tense because I hoped and wished that everything would turn out right. I constantly reminded myself that this is not Beauty and the Beast so Cruel Beauty can do whatever it wants and twist me around its little finger because there are no guarantees. It might have been only me, but one of the parallels involved (and probably an obvious twist to others) astounded me. I was in awe because I didn't connect the dots until I was way into the story. 

Then there's the fact that the I was die-hard in love with the characters. I don't think I could have loved Nyx more. I feel like I always praise complex characters, but that's because complex characters are interesting and connectable. Nyx felt torn between her bitterness/resentment and her love for her sister. She felt evil inside, but strived to save her world. She craved her father's care, but resented him too. She was torn between so many decisions and feelings that I sympathized with her more than I have with another character in a long time. 

"I'm here!" I shouted. "Your bride!" Congratulations on your marriage!" 

Ignifex was amazing as well with his equally dry wit and snarky attitude. Both were dangerous, both unpredictable, and both played off each other wonderfully well. 

I don't feel too particularly safe in talking about this ship and the other elements involved since I don't want to take anything away the amazing journey. There is a sort-of-kind-of love triangle involved, but don't fear! When I heard other people refer it as a love triangle of sorts and then I started reading, I thought that there was no "kind of" about it. But there is. Kind of. *winks* 

Ignifex sat down. "If you start wondering how this house works, you'll likely go mad. That could be amusing, I suppose. Especially if it's the kind of madness that causes you to run naked through the hallways. Do feel free to indulge in that anytime." 

I applaud Rosamund Hodge for everything. Absolutely everything. And I don't think I'm going overboard with my praise. Great mythology, those twists I was talking about, and then there's this fantastic thing called world-building. I'm telling you, I was in love. 

I thought something else was incredible as well. Hodge may not have realized it (or anybody else for that matter), but she incorporated many Disney movie elements. Below, you will be attacked by gifs from Disney movies that I was reminded of while reading Cruel Beauty

As you can see, it felt like Hercules and Beauty and the Beast had a baby that had features resembling its relatives Frozen, The Little Mermaid, and Peter Pan (yes, that scary shadow dude is Peter Pan's shadow). For a Disney lover like myself, this made it even more fun to read.

Verdict: Blown-away by this fantastic "retelling" mixed with mythology and probably subconciously added elements of Disney. Very thankful for Epic Reads!


  1. Oh my gosh, yes! I thought Shade reminded me of someone, and now it makes perfect sense.

    1. Actually, I paralleled him with SORTA SPOILER - Gaston and thought of "he's a beast, he'll take off with your children!" gif but it was too late - END OF SORTA SPOILER. But yes, also what you're thinking of :)

  2. reading this one now and loving it.

  3. Each review I see of this book makes me a bit more excited to read it. I'm not sure how much higher my excitement level can go.

    My favorite part of your review is the paragraph that talks about how, even though this is a retelling, you're nervous about what is going to happen. I hate it when being familiar with the original story means knowing how a retelling will end because 1. I HATE spoilers, and 2. that means the author wasn't very creative. I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed that aspect as well as all the other aspects, and I hope I will feel the same way. :)

    1. She was VERY creative, which I loved (obviously, as you can see). I felt like it was a whole different book, but at the same time, still one that was familiar enough that I loved.

  4. I'm so glad that you loved this book Sunny, retellings can be really hard to write and especially to win over fans, but I have to agree Hodge wrote an incredibly gorgeous story in Cruel Beauty and also amazing characters, I had a hard time from falling hard and fast for Nyx and Ignifex! Lovely review as always! :)

  5. Great review! I need to read this book, it sounds so good, and every review I see makes me want to read it even more. I love fairy tale retellings, and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite, so I can't wait.

  6. Now I really, really need to start reading this. This review is about the seventh positive review I've seen for this book. It is getting so much praise and love that its really pushing me to read it. Bu...But Scarlet and Crash Into You......*sigh* fine I'll read this one first :).
    Great review :D

  7. I love this review, particularly the first paragraph which captures my reading experience of it as well. For me it was perfect because I have always loved C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces (it's my fav of his books) and I kept thinking as I read Hodge had to be a fan too. And then there it was in her Afterward. She did a tremendous job bringing the story back to its Greek roots too, since Beauty and the Beast is a derivative of the myth of Eros and Psyche and I loved how she kept the original element of the father sacrificing the daughter and it not being her choice completely. Also there are elements of Tam Lin in it which is my second favorite "fairy tale" next to Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun West of the Moon (also a derivative of Eros and Psyche).

    Just made me happy through and through. Every word of it. The dialogue! The romance! The characters! The world! *happy sigh*

    1. I haven't read Till We Have Faces, but now I have another reading recommendation! I completely agree, I love that she brought it back to its Greek roots and she showed that it really wasn't her choice as much as we think it is. Man, so many fairytale recs I have to get to asap now!

      *happy sighs with you*

  8. This makes me positively giddy! I'm so happy you loved this, especially Nyx. That quote made me smile and miss her. Now I want to read the book again. And yes, the kind of love triangle ... I didn't understand why people got so made over it. It made perfect sense to me. Anyway, yay! :)

    1. It did to me too! At first, I was bracing myself for the doom and gloom of having a triangle, but it made sense so then I didn't care!

  9. LOVE how you noticed all sorts of Disney comparisons. I didn't realize all those. But I agree, this book definitely stands out as A Beauty and the Beast retelling. The mythology is interesting and both Nyx and Ignifex are very strong characters. I'm still annoyed by Shade, but I agree that it's not really a triangle in the end. I loved all the moral ambiguity and that these characters did bad things, but you want to love them anyway. Great review!

  10. I LOVED this book. I loved Nyx. I loved Ignifex. I loved the world building. You jsut brought it all back for me. Great review.

  11. Oh,'re review is brilliant! I'm so glad you love this because I absolutely adored this story, ESPECIALLY because you don't get any reassurances from the author. :) I'm evil like that I guess, but I also love morally ambiguous characters because you just never know what they're going to do! This is by far the best B&tB retelling I've read to-date, and I can't wait to read her novella coming out in April, I think. Fabulous review, Summer, and I love all those GIFs...and the quotes. You're seriously making me wish I had time for a re-read!

  12. It makes me sincerely happy to know that you loved CRUEL BEAUTY! While I didn't fall in love with it as much as I wanted to, there were definitely elements that appealed to me (Nyx, Ignifex, that crazy house). And I totally see the Disney connections (based on the GIFs you've chosen, anyway), which is really crazy cool.