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.
Fairy tales have been the staple of everyone’s childhood. Yet, I never really could wrap my head around those stories even as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Disney movies but somehow they fell short. There were always a little too simplistic for my tastes even as a kid (I moved quite fast to Famous Five, Nancy Drew, etc books!).
So when I read the blurb of Cruel Beauty, I was intrigued, not just because Beauty and Beast was the one fairy tale I could stomach (Just cause Belle was the bookworm and Beast was the one who loved her for it!), but because of it’s dark undertones. Humans aren’t built for simple. Our emotions make us twisted, and darkness personified, even when the emotion is kindness!!
I started the book one night, and it took me a day to complete it (not including my adult responsibilities like my job!). And I just went into my bookagasm stage 😉
I was raised to marry a monster.
We start off the story with Nyx who has been told all her life that she is the one who is going to be her people’s salvation. Nyx and her twin sister’s mother had been unable to conceive a child, so their father foolishly asked that the Lord grant them children and promised one of his daughters to the Lord in exchange. Her father made a deal with the Gentle Lord – the evil ruler of Acardia –and the lord of bargains. But he also lost his wife to childbirth in the bargain. The Gentle Lord’s habit of cashing in double on his deals is well-known and very much reviled.
If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.
Nyx, as the child her father loved less, has long-known her destiny to be the wife (and the killer) of the Gentle Lord. Nyx was a character that you can’t love but you can’t hate either. You can’t understand why you can’t make up your mind about her! I will tell you why. That’s because unlike most female characters, she isn’t wholly good! She has hate in her heart, but can’t do much about it! She has known all her life that she is nothing but a pawn to undo the damage her father and his colleagues wrecked. Who wouldn’t be more than a little pissed? Her twin sister is loved and never has been told of her sister’s fate. A poison of hate has festered in Nyx throughout her life, a poison she hopes to use and kill the Gentle Lord, who she believes is the bane of her existence.
In Nyx, Ms. Hodge has created a female character that is sometimes unlikeable, sometimes admirable but always wholly relatable. As I said, there is a reason why you can’t hate her, but can’t always love her and that reason is simply cause she is more human, more real than most characters these days!
“You fought and fought to keep all the cruelty locked up in your head, and for what? None of them ever loved you, because none of them ever knew you”
Ignifex, on the hand, is the Gentle Lord, who rules over the kingdom and is considered to be the evil. But is anything ever that clear? He is the Lord of Bargain, and known to cash in on technicalities of the bargain he makes. Yet, do people ever learn? No. They still make bargains, and when those bargains end up making their lives worse, they blame The Gentle Lord. Ignifex (a name he chooses for himself, for he has forgotten his own!). He is snarky, witty and absolutely so unvillainous that it is hard to understand why Nyx hates him so much! He is cockiness brings out the worst (best, in my opinion) in Nyx! And that makes him quite an interesting character!
“I couldn’t be kind to him after what he’d done, couldn’t be cruel after what I had done”
But Ignifex and Nyx together? They shouldn’t work. At all. They are supposed to be enemies, one supposed to kill the other, but they work. And how beautifully do they work! Ignifex sees the real Nyx, the one that is flawed, wicked and full of poison and yet falls for her. He makes her smile in moments when there were no reasons to smile. While Nyx makes him want to remember, remember his own past, his own reason and his own shadow. Ignifex is infinitely crueler to Nyx and vice versa; they see each other’s darkness and revel in it.
“You deserve all that and more. It made me happy to see you suffer. I would do it all over again if I could.’ I realized I was shaking as the words tumbled out of me. ‘I would do it again and again. Every night I would torment you and laugh. Do you understand? You are never safe with me.’ I drew a shuddering breath, trying to will away the sting of tears.
He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. ‘That’s what makes you my favorite.’ He reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek with his thumb. ‘Every wicked bit of you.”
But is this book perfect? No. I really really wanted to it to be perfect. The romance or the love story per say was a bit rushed in my opinion. The plot was moving along fine, at perfect pace, when BAM! Nyx goes and kisses the shadow, Shade. It isn’t that this story starts off as a “love triangle”, it’s that the love is instantaneous. That, for me, at least is a little difficult to swallow.
The plot also hinges on the bitterness and resentment Nyx holds for Astaria, her twin and though it starts of as a good byline, it never amounts to much. I could have used Astaria in the plotline a little more.
But these irritants were nothing compared to the beauty of this book. Ms. Hodge has made a wonderful debut that has left me enthralled and wanting for more. Her unique mixture of Greek Mythology, Gothic surroundings and the uniqueness that is a classic FairyTale, is wonderfully presented and beautifully written!
“They said that love was terrifying and tender, wild and sweet, and none of it made any sense.
But now I knew that every mad word was true.”
I have just found out that the next book by Ms. Hodge, Crimson Bound is set to be released on May 5th 2015 and I can’t wait to have it in my hands. Because the only way for Ms. Hodge is to go up from here 🙂
4 / 5 Stars
This book is recommended for anyone who loves their fairy tales with a little twist and a lot of darkness. This book is for those who love their characters flawed and the love that stems from hate.