Let me ask you one thing – why is everyone saying it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling? Yes, there’s an element of that, him being a demon and all, but it’s rather a story of Rumpelstiltskin with all the deals and looking for his name. I’ve checked few reviews on Goodreads and they all mention only Beauty and the Beast and mythology. Why?
Now that I’m done with whining, let’s move on to the review 😉
Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe #1) by Rosamund Hodge
I have somewhat mixed feeling about this book. I liked the way it was written, I liked the characters and the little plot twists, I liked the darkness and the fairy tale elements, but somehow I still didn’t love it. I was expecting something more.
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.
I really like author’s writing style. It created a perfect mood for the story. Nyx makes a good storyteller, even if she’s a bit whiny sometimes. But let’s leave her for later. Even though the pace of the story was rather slow, there’s no way you’ll get bored with it.
The world created by the author was fascinating! I loved the idea of… maybe I shouldn’t say it since it’s kind of a spoiler, but I loved it ;). It’s like the world we know was moved to some other reality, where people still believe in ancient gods. Some of the myths were mentioned and made into a part of the story.
Ignifex – him I simply adore! A perfect bad guy, handsome, dark, deceitful and charming all at the same time. You can’t call him evil, but he does show his cruel side. He’s also fragile and caring when he wants to. I had a love-hate relationship with his character. I couldn’t resist him, even with all the things he had done to people, to the kingdom and to her. Yes, he’s easily one of my favorite male characters now, right after Magnus Bane :D.
The insta-love-triangle thingy. Yes, it’s all there. It was well written, but it still bothered me.
Nyx is a strong heroine who was raised with just one purpose – to marry the Gentle Lord and kill him. But as much as I admired her resolve, I can’t say I really liked her. Also, her mixed feelings toward her family were rather disturbing, strange, and yet somehow fitting.
I can’t decide if I liked Shade or hated him. At first, he was the gentle, mysterious and loveable. But as the story progressed, he changed and it happened so suddenly that I didn’t really knew why and how. He became manipulative and cruel and yet he still seemed to care for Nyx.
I had no idea how the magic worked here. It seemed like it came from somewhere above Ignifex, granted his wishes or approved his deals, but there’s no explanation how. Maybe that was the idea, that it’s something mystical?
There are a few problems I have with the ending. I don’t mind the love triangle solution and the way they ended up, It fitted the mood of the book, it worked for this story. But the main bad guys, since apparently Ignifex wasn’t one, weren’t really explained, it was all so bleak, so uninteresting. I was expecting something more here. And since the next book moves on to new characters I’m guessing these guys won’t get any explanation? If they will I might be tempted to read the next book, so let me know, please!
In short – I did enjoy this book, it’s a good retelling but not a great one. There are few things I wished were resolved differently. I don’t think I’ll be reading the next book, (the blurb doesn’t sound interesting) but this one was OK and I’m happy I’ve read it. If you like slow paced retellings that concentrate on characters’ feeling and world building check this one out, you might like it.