Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

stephanimichelle's review against another edition

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This is a really interesting take on Beauty and the Beast. The story takes place on an island called Arcadia, which was part of the Roman Grecian empire. 900 years ago a curse was placed on the island, cutting Arcadia off from the rest of the world, and ending the line of Kings who had ruled over the land peacefully for centuries.

The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, is believed to have placed the curse. He is an imortal demon prince who makes bargains which grant people's wishes, but ultimately end up killing them or causing harm.

Nyx's father made such a bargain eighteen years ago; his wife was unable to have children and she desperately wanted to provide her son with an heir. Ignifex said a son was out of the question, but his wife would have twin daughters by the end of the year. The price would be that one of these daughters must marry Ignifex on her 17th birthday.

Nyx has been preparing for her marriage all her life; she must get the Gentle Lord to trust her, and then kill him, ending the curse on Arcadia.

When Nyx finally meets her husband he is not what she expected, and she finds herself drawn to him. Will she be able to keep her promise to her family, and betray her husband?

I liked the twist on the classic Beauty and the Beast story, and the Grecian/Roman elements. I also loved the fact that the main character Nyx was quite bitter about her circumstances. Nyx's twin Astraia is loved and coddled by their father; the price of his bargain is paid by Nyx alone, and she resents her sister.

I found the character names quite difficult to deal with. For the most part these were grecian in origin, but I've no idea where Ignifex came from or how to pronounce it.

pastryghost's review against another edition

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I apologize for this messily formatted review, but I gotta get all my gripes out here.

Cruel Beauty is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I use that description lightly.
Before she was born, Nyx Triskelion's father made a bargain with the Gentle Lord, a powerful demon sealed away in a castle. In exchange for the healthy birth of twin girls, one of the daughters would be married to the demon. Now Nyx has turned 17, and the story begins with her wedding to the Gentle Lord Ignifex.

We learn pretty early on that Nyx is supposed to be this titular "Cruel Beauty." I was excited by her bitterness, and spent a majority of the book anticipating her slow descent into a dark heroine. I can draw some similarities to the dark-hearted main character of The Young Elites, but Nyx never quite crosses that threshold. In fact, she's pretty damn wishy-washy.

Nyx's motivation is never concrete. It is established at the beginning that her goal is to kill her demon husband and save her world. The first half of the book spends a lot of time exploring Nyx's character as she grows accustomed to her new life in her husband's castle. What it does not explore is her relationship with Ignifex.


My main major gripe is this: Halfway through the book, Nyx rescues Ignifex. But at this point in the story, they barely knew each other. Why would she rescue him when the entire first half of the book works to show how determined she is to kill him?

After she does save him, we get the character development the beginning half needed: varied interactions between Nyx and Ignifex. They bond in the rainy library. They wrestle for keys and fall atop one another in compromising positions. She constantly tells him she's going to kill him- but this time it's flirty. She stares at his neck a lot. You get the idea.
If their dynamic had been explored before Nyx
Spoilerencountered the cursed door
, maybe she would have had a REASON to feel guilty for leaving Ignifex for dead. If she felt an inkling of feeling for him, it would be believable that she would take pity and save him. And then cue more character development after she saves his life.

On to Shade, the shadow servant of Ignifex. Shade was a dreamboat,
Spoilerthen a villain, then never redeemed
. After Nyx falls for Ignifex, I have a hard time believing
Spoilershe still loves Shade. While he insisted she was his savior, he was using her as a means to an end. He almost murdered her. Then he's imprisoned for most of the second act, and when he helps save the day, he's still kind of a douche. And then they become Lux so whatever, character development problem solved I guess?
Clearly I am not a fan of his development (or lack thereof).

Again, regarding Nyx's conviction (again, or lack thereof): I was so frustrated and bewildered at how EASILY she
Spoilerturns on Ignifex at the end
. The whole second half was building their relationship and love and trust (???) and Nyx immediately collapses when
Spoilerher sister Astraia says "Hey, I'm aggressive and conniving now. We HAVE to kill your husband, trust me, no arguing."
Nyx lies down and rolls over, without even trying to find another option or
Spoilertalk her sister down. The sister who, oh yeah, Nyx has hated and resented her whole life - but suddenly Nyx would do anything she says, including kill the man she loves. But don't worry, she's SUPER sad about it
. Her inconsistent motivation throughout this entire book drove me up a fucking wall.

Minor complaints:
- Too few characters? Sucks that Nyx literally has no friends.
- And literally why isn't Nyx 18. At least make her of legal age. I know it's ""fantasy"" but come on, don't be yucky.
- The
SpoilerShade and Ignifex
twist was really predictable.
SpoilerWas there anyone reading this who didn't immediately guess it when Nyx was like, huh... they look exactly alike...

- The world they live in is called Arcadia. Nyx's sister is named Astraia. Seriously...? Arcadia. Astraia. Am I the only person bugged by this?
- Lastly, I wanted to like Ignifex, but... he wasn't charming enough for me. A few examples of more charming wizardly-characters: 1) Howl Jenkins from Howl's Moving Castle. 2) The Darkling from The Grisha trilogy. 3) The Magus from Ancient Magus's Bride. I could go on.

Finally I'll address The Good:
I loved the ending. Loved the
Spoileralternate universe
, too.
SpoilerThe time skip was fascinating, and as Nyx "reawakens" and struggles to remember the full life she lived before Arcadia was freed, we feel the rest of the story begin to pay off. Nyx and her sister Astraia are different people, and seeing their relationship in a different timeline was hugely satisfying. The new Astraia was also delightful, because she is now cunning and a little bit devilish.
And Nyx and Lux finding each other in the end was really, very romantic. I'm a sucker for loves that span dimensions and lifetimes.
The ending line was a very sweet conclusion, and I truly think it could not have been more perfect.

I also enjoyed the Tom-a-Lone lore, as well as the festival celebration. (However all the Pandora analogies were annoying and, frankly, pretty cliché. We get it. She's his Pandora. I'm bored.) I tried searching for the original myth of Tom-a-Lone and Nanny Anna, but I think it is a myth invented by Hodge herself. Which is wonderful. I love when authors fuel their stories with fictionalized mythology and parallels of their own, it helps their world feel more full and unique.
As soon as the story is told, I got a wonderful sense of foreboding that Nyx's story would parallel this tale. I wish there had been more of that creative history-building, still inspired by Greek and Roman culture, and not the crowded blend of concepts plucked straight from our world's history.

In conclusion:
1. Promising beginning, but falls flat with an excruciatingly slow middle and too much heavy-handed historical exposition.
2. Unconvincing romance. Read Howl's Moving Castle instead.
3. Great ending concept almost makes it worth it.
4. Fuck Shade tho.

bookaholic307's review against another edition

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At first I was like, eh....and then I'm like what??.....and then I can't put the darn thing down!!! Love the book!

jillselwyn's review against another edition

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Even though its been years since I've read it (and I do plan on rereading it) I remember LOVING THIS. I still love it more than ACOTAR and to those who personally know me, that's saying something. I even brought up some of the archetypes I loved the most in this book in my creative writing workshop course at my university today and my professor even seemed to be quite happy I brought it up. I can't wait to have the time to reread it!

laughlinesandliterature's review against another edition

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I liked this book, but at times it felt stilted. It was very apparent that this was a first novel, and I do feel like her next novel Crimson Bound was much better. However it was an interesting premise and I did like how Nyx was vacillated between what she wanted to do and what she knew she should do. I think the world building could have used some work. The Greek/Roman mythology was a little hard to follow at times even though an explanation was attempted. I think part of the problem was I was expecting it to be at the same level as Crimson Bound. I would still give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

hlizmarie's review against another edition

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Something bothered me about this book from minute one and I never got over it even as the story got a better as it went. I think it goes back to the world-building in the beginning. I couldn't figure out what philosophy exactly was being borrowed from and it didn't ever seem particularly coherent to me. Also, young adult books are tricky sometimes. There's a very hard to define line for me between young adult books that still resonate and are enjoyable to me as an adult and those that are just too young in feel, emotion or action. It's nearly impossible to tell what kind of young adult book you're picking up until you've read the first few chapters. In this case, the feel of it was simply a bit too young. I loved the volatility of the heroine, Nyx, and kind of relished her embracing the darkness in her heart but overall she was simply too young for me. It made no sense that she's been fearing the Gentle Lord for her whole 17 years but suddenly she's kissing people in his castle nearly immediately. She also goes back and forth between promises in a way I found really offputting. I wondered if this would be better as a adult novel but honestly the things that annoyed me about Nyx often annoy me about many of the female characters swept off their feet in romances. One minute there's hate, then suddenly lust and love. That transition has to happen well and convincingly and unfortunately I didn't always buy it here. There were things here that worked (Ignifex was fascinating, the castle was creepy and wonderful) but overall the story never sat well with me.

wrenlee's review against another edition

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Welcome to Book City
Date: January 6, 2015

Spoilers Ahead

Cruel Beauty
Rosamund Hodge

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.

City Calendar:
This is what happened during the week.
Nyx has a marriage ceremony to a statue that represents the Gentle Lord. She goes to his house. She falls asleep there and wakes with the Gentle Lord draped over her. She changed for dinner and leaves dinner early. The Gentle Lord during dinner asks her to call him Ignifex. His servant Shade turns into a human and shows Nyx where the Heart of Water is located. They kiss, letting Shade talk. Nyx explores the house. The next day, she sees Ignifex making a bargain with a childhood friend. She has to be held down while her friend makes the bargain. She finds the room that has her virgin knife. She falls when trying to get it. Ignifex catches her. They kiss. Nyx takes some keys from his neck. Nyx explores, finding a mini replica of Arcadia. Ignifex finds her in the room and locks her up with his dead wives. Shade finds Nyx and sets her free. Nyx finds a door and is hurt by the Children of Typhon until Ignifex finds her and rescues her. Nyx goes to the library. She finds Ignifex there. He takes her to an illusion of the outside world. She makes a deal with him to find his real name. She is shown the Heart of Fire by Shade. Shade makes her discover the truth. Ignifex saves her. He shows her the Heart of Air. The two kiss and have sex. Ignifex takes Nyx to her mother's grave. He gives her his ring which holds part of his power. She goes to see Astraia. Astraia makes her promise to kill her husband Ignifex. Nyx frees Shade. Nyx gets the Children of Typhon to attack Ignifex. She finds out the truth about Ignifex and Shade. She forgets when they join. She remembers before marrying Tom-a-Lone. She makes a deal with the Kindly Ones. She gets Ignifex and Nyx wander the world of the Children of Typhon. They leave and return to the real world.
And that's what happened this week.

Personal Ads:
Sacrifice. Sister. Daughter. Niece. Wife. Hermetic. Came to kill Ignifex to avenge her mother and save Arcadia. Least cared for daughter. Loves Ignifex.

The Gentle Lord. Demon. Protects Arcadia from the Children of Typhon. Bargain maker. Husband. Kind. Funny. Shade knows the truth but can't act. Ignifex can act but doesn't know the truth. The Last Prince. Loves Nyx.

I like the retelling. The way the story of Beauty and the Beast is weaved into the story. I didn't expect the Last Prince twist. (I expected Shade and Ignifex to be the same person. It seemed to make sense because of the exact same face. The beauty isn't pure. The beast isn't always kind but typically is. The prince. (If you know the story of Beauty and the Beast, the beast is actually a prince turned beast.) This is weaved into the story. The way the author adds in these elements, without you knowing it, is amazing. It's seamless and fluid. You don't see the commonalities until you really think.
The folklore is interesting. I liked how the Roman/Greek gods were added in. I'm a big fan of the Greek gods. (Percy Jackson, thank you.) I love the mythology. I can recognize enough myths. (The Persephone story. The Pandora one.) The mythology was weaved in. It wasn't rough but smooth. You weren't roughly jerked into these myths. You got enough of it but not overloaded with Greek/Roman mythology. We get the folklore of the area instead. Brigit. Nanny-Anna. Tom-a-Lone. We get these amazing folk stories. This book isn't exclusively one or the other. (Not that one or the other is bad or anything...) The folklore was different. But interesting all the same. It was different. I wonder if they are actual folk stories or not.
Shade/Ignifex is an interesting character. He's complex. He has more sides to him. He's the dark and brooding Ignifex. Then a happy Shade. Then a funny, childish Ignifex. And a rough, forceful Shade. Both sides of this character has more layers. He has secrets he tries to keep. And a past. I love how he is two halves of the same whole. I love that. It is like separating the bad from the good, and vice versa. His back story is also really interesting. The last prince. The destroyer of the world. But also a silent watcher of the people. How this last prince turned into someone more dark and devious yet still caring about his people even though his people don't see it.
The darkness in the characters' hearts is fascinating. They are both spiteful people. They aren't happy-go-lucky. (I would hate that, actually.) To me, their pain and past is what makes them lovable. Even if it seems the opposite. They have poison in their hearts. Most do. You want to see how they heal, if they ever do. You want to heal them. Not out of the challenge. Or the pity. But you want to change them, make them love and care.
I didn't really like the ending. The ending seemed rushed. The ending seemed to rush over the truth. I wanted more back story. I wanted more of the world where Nyx is not a sacrifice. I wanted to see that. Also. When Nyx remembers Ignifex, I feel like that part was glazed over. How did she remember? Why? How did she know when to show up? It seems like perfect coincidence that Ignifex is returning from the stroll to see his subjects when Nyx is there. And I feel like the author didn't want a series, so she got the Kindly Ones killed. (Not to insult what she did write.) I didn't like that the overpowering was rushed. It should have been fleshed out and had more descriptions.
Nor did I really the romance. While the two canceled out the poison in their hearts by being together, I don't like how the relationship formed. I will admit how I liked the two being together changed them. That's all I like really. The relationship seems to be formed over, not physical attraction, but something else. Nyx wanted to kill Ignifex, but she loved him for...what? Why did Nyx love him? His willingness to see her darkness and ignore it? Even though she threw knives his way? I'm confused. Is Ignifex one of those guys who enjoys being tortured by his loved ones? I'm not sure. Ignifex...I can't see what he sees in Nyx. Nor why Nyx fell for him. There is chemistry, though. I don't like it. It's the stereotypical heat you read about. Not gentle touches. Not cautious brushes. (Rhyming, I know.) I am a fan of cautious relationships. When the two don't throw themselves into the relationship. When they're friends first. (Or enemies. But it all depends.)

Sunny with a 20% chance of rain

poorashleu's review against another edition

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Originally posted at yadultreview

I will sign up for anything that is Beauty and the Beast related. Included re-tellings. It’s my thing. My addiction. So I was quite thrilled when I had the change to read Cruel Beauty as an ARC. Flailing thrilled.

And then I started it. And I had to read a bit more to finally get into it. This was not a quick read in the sense I was hooked from the get-go, but it was still a solid read. Hodge’s does not build a normal world, which made it even more interesting to me that I enjoyed it. I am very much a stickler for certain worlds hence my ability to not read much SF&F! But, oh how I was sucked in and not able to put it down. Minus that whole sleeping thing. I did put it down for that!

Cruel Beauty is an interesting mix of mythology, fantasy and Beauty and the Beast. The last one in that list made it easier for me to get through the first two things if I’m being honest. What also helped was Hodge’s writing. Oh my heart. It was dark, poetic and not like anything I’ve read recently. Plus, although it is the Beauty and the Beast love story there is a bit of a twist that is unusual. BUT IT WORKS. I promise you it works! It does! It also helps that not a lot of the characters are lovable. I do not hide the fact that I love the asshole characters. It’s one of my flaws. I am drawn to the asshole characters (fictional and real, FYI.) But the characters and the twist made this book even more addicting. Nyx is an asshole with her own issues she’s working on and well, let’s not even touch Ignifex, who has done cruel unspeakable things. Ignifex, who she is bound to marry.

The one problem with the book is that it is hard to discuss it without giving anything away because even the littlest thing gives away a lot. Which, I know is about the worst thing a blogger can say. But it’s true. But it works! I promise. Go read it. Now. Go!

ashiepashie's review against another edition

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girl dinner

ksophialydia's review against another edition

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The language in this book had moments of real beauty, and in general the writing was evocative. The world-building was outstanding, the entire novel played in my mind like a film.

The constant banter between Nyx and Ignifex was an absolute delight, but I wish there had been more to her falling in love with him (and Shade...). It wasn't quite insta-love, but it wasn't developed on the page as much as I had wished, even after they established their relationship.

This is a clean romance, and even the kissing scenes are quite tame - no wandering hands or anything.

I do wish the book was a big darker at times, but my biggest complain is probably that Ignifex's identity (and the twist attached to it) was obvious from very early on, so most of the book I was waiting for Nyx to catch up.