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.
Who doesn’t love a good fairytale retelling? Admittedly, that’s why I picked up this book. Well, that and the fact that the retelling was of Beauty and the Beast which is one of my favourite stories/Disney movies. But this is not a Disney movie and it’s probably not the kind of retelling you’re expecting. No, this one is incredibly dark and twisted and yet I still enjoyed it. I constantly found myself not wanting to put it down because I needed to find out what happened next and to find the answers that were just out of reach. That being said, while I did enjoy this a lot there were some things that made me knock down my rating to a respectable 3.5 stars but they feel pretty justified. Let’s get started!
- To me, one of the most important things to consider when writing a fairytale retelling is ensuring that the story becomes your own and that you’re able to differentiate it from whatever story it’s based on. I feel like Hodge did a very good job in making her version of Beauty and the Beast stand out. At first, I was disappointed to learn that the protagonist, Nyx, wasn’t the Belle that I was expecting her to be but I quickly found that I preferred her to be this way. In my opinion, Nyx was more of an anti-hero; she had a sharp tongue, she hated, and she was cunning and determined to kill her husband and save her people. It was nice to see a character like her, knowing that she was so full of hate and didn’t deserve to be loved but still found it in Ignifex. Not that the original Belle was completely submissive to the Beast either, but Nyx had a bit more bite to her and it was nice to see. When it comes to Ignifex, I definitely expected him to be more brutal and definitely more like Beast, but he was rather charming and remained to be. Hodge didn’t completely reverse the roles of Belle and Beast for Nyx and Ignifex but it’s pretty damn close and I think that’s what really separates her retelling from the original tale.
- The world building for this story was probably one of my favourite aspects of this book. I loved how there was a lot of focus and emphasis on Greek gods and Greek mythology and the history major in me kept geeking out at all the references. You could definitely tell that Nyx’s civilization was one that used to belong to the Ancient Greek empire and still valued all of its customs and beliefs. Yet Hodge still managed to make it her own with creating the peasants’ own interpretations of gods and myths and showed how it was something unique to their society, which is something that absolutely happened throughout history.
- I found that the relationship between Nyx and Ignifex was a pretty good representation of how this type of situation would actually go. Ignifex was just following the rules and orders of his masters but still didn’t hold any resentment towards Nyx, or possibly any of his previous wives. Nyx, however, had resentment for everyone involved in the situation and she absolutely had the right to be. The entire situation was out of her control and her fate was decided by her foolish father so how do you expect her to feel anything but hate? And then you had her inner battle between actually learning to feel something for Ignifex versus her promise to kill him and save all of Arcadia which felt very natural. It was also natural to see that Nyx would fight back against Ignifex, both physically and verbally, and that just made him love her even more. It turned out to be a flawed yet healthy relationship and I thought it was great.
- Honestly, sometimes the writing lost me. It’s not that the story was bad or the characters were horrible, because it wasn’t and they weren’t, but I don’t think that the overall writing structure was consistent. Sometimes it would jump from being very descriptive to very vague and you kind of lose the plot. There were a few times where I had to go back and read a few pages because I couldn’t figure out what happened and how we got from point A to point B. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was sloppy but it was almost like controlled chaos; the answers were there but they weren’t clear. But on the bright side, the dialogue felt comfortable and wasn’t at all stiff, which is what I feared going into this, so I can respect that.
- I didn’t really understand the full purpose of Shade. I mean, on one hand I understand who he was and what he was meant to represent but on the other hand his actions didn’t really make sense, especially after you learn who he really is. Initially I liked him but after learning everything I’m still not sure what to think of him. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, which I think is another fault in the controlled chaotic writing.
- The ending, in my opinion, was one of those dumb cop-out endings and I wasn’t happy at all. I hate when authors utilize that kind of trope and make it some big “plot twist” so I can’t really respect Hodge for doing it too. Sure, everything worked out in the end but I don’t think it was fair to both me as the reader and to Nyx. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
- This isn’t about the book in particular, but I couldn’t help making mental comparisons to another book that deals with a Beauty and the Beast retelling which, I think, made it harder for me to enjoy it. And they weren’t comparisons that said “oh, that other book is better than this one” because I prefer this one MUCH more. The comparisons were more of how certain scenes were very similar to this other book…..which was released a year after this one. I’m not saying this other author plagiarized Hodge’s book, but she definitely read this one before writing her book (she even left a comment/review on the back cover) and she’s not a very original author so I wouldn’t put it past her. I just wish I hadn’t read that other book because I would’ve had a more enjoyable reading experience with this one.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- It’s not the retelling you’re expecting, nor is it on the same level as a Renee Ahdieh retelling, but it’s definitely unique and it should be the only Beauty and the Beast retelling you read. Please. Don’t read the other one. This one’s WAY better.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe #1)
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Pages: 340 (Paperback)
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!