[I am currently on holidays until the end of August, I’ll be replying to you all, blog-hopping again and everything then! Thank you for understanding, love you all!]
There are no spoilers in this review.
Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales and, if I have some of them on my TBR already, Cruel Beauty is the first retelling I have ever read. With an interesting concept at its heart, mixing between the actual fairy tale we all know and a new, different and dark world filled with mythological roots, Cruel Beauty was, for sure, an interesting read, but ultimately a bit disappointing in some aspects.
A GREAT, YET A BIT CONFUSING WORLD
“Don’t look at the shadows too long or a demon might look back.”
Ever since she was born, Nyx’s destiny had already been made up for her. She would grow to marry a monster, the monster ruling the land with his bargains and terrifying everyone in Arcadia, and she would try to kill him. Never having any kind of choice in the matter, Nyx had resolved herself to embrace this forged path the best she could, only…she didn’t plan on falling in love.
All of the elements of the original fairy tale are present and accounted for: the small village, the girl, the father, the monster, the big, abandoned castle; yet everything is made up with twists and turns, differences that make us rediscover and appreciate the story under a whole new light. In this world the author creates, there is a fear of demons, magic exists and so does Greek mythology, always intertwined with reality.
If this world was completely re-invented, in some ways, it is also what had me quite confused, more than once during my read. I was half fascinated by it all, the stories, the constant references to many mythological elements…and I was half very confused. If these parts of the story helped shape the world and understand it better, which I was grateful for, it also felt like too much at times, and made my interest towards what was actually happening deviate slightly, which was a bit of a shame.
FLAWED, YET REALISTIC CHARACTERS
Cruel Beauty is told from Nyx’s point of view. I promise I didn’t pick up this book because the main character is named like my sister…weeeeeeeeell not entirely. Nyx was an interesting, flawed and certainly well-shaped protagonist. She felt more than once selfish, annoying and I wanted to shake some sense into her more than once for the decisions she made and the thoughts she allowed herself to have – however, that selfishness and these flaws made her feel real for sure. I would be lying if I said she was my favorite character of all times, yet the internal struggles she faced and the way she reacted were entirely realistic, which is something, really, I can’t blame.
“Why is he scared of the dark?”
I meant the words for a joke, but Shade nodded seriously. “Like all monsters. Because it reminds him of what he truly is”.”
Ignifex, on the other hand, was a very intriguing character. I loved how, slowly but surely, we discovered parts of him we didn’t know and how he transformed, from the image of the monster everyone had of him, to someone completely different and three-dimensional. I never thought I would root for him, but my heart slowly grew soft whenever he came in. I loved discovering that he was more than the cruel monster everyone painted him to be.
QUICK RELATIONSHIP GROWTH VS. SLOW PACING
“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.”
There would be tons to say about the relationships in this book, yet I find myself a bit at a loss for words. Nyx and Ignifex’s relationship grow quite slowly, at the beginning, as she grows accustomed to him and gets to know him a teensy bit better, but then I found out that there was quite a little lapse of time that missed in between the moment they meet and the moment she puts words on what she feels for him, already defining it as love. It wasn’t insta-love, that’s for sure, but I think I would have liked a little more of a slow development of the relationships and feelings, especially given their particular situation.
There is another particular situation on which I won’t dwell too long because spoilers, but there is quite a little bit of a love triangle at a moment, which I found a little odd.
What ultimately surprised me in this story, both in a good and bad way, was the pacing. I found myself intrigued, wanting to know more, seeing how everything would develop, both the relationships and the actual plot, which was, if you remember, Nyx being driven by her need to kill the monster. I quite expected this to be fast-paced and filled with thrilling, suspenseful moments, secrets rooms and monsters or demons or darkness swallowing them whole, yet Cruel Beauty kind of fell on the slow side of the spectrum at times, for me. I enjoyed it as a whole, even if at times, I found the story dragging on a little bit…Which gave an interesting place for the relationship and house-exploring to grow, but not for the big action to take place.
Despite the criticism I have about this book, Cruel Beauty was still a lovely read. I enjoyed the complex world-building, heavily relying on myths and giving it all an interesting dimension, I enjoyed the realistic and flawed characters and relationships and, most of it all, I enjoyed the explorations of this big and magical castle within the story. I’d recommend it if you’re into retellings and mythology, Beauty and the Beast, a teensy bit of magic and romance as well.
Final rating: 3 drops!
Do you want to read Cruel Beauty? Did you read it, or any other Beauty & The Beast retellings? Which ones would you recommmend? Share your thoughts in comments!
Rosamund Hodge, Cruel Beauty, Published by Balzer + Bray, January 28th, 2014.
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.