Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty- Rosamund Hodge

Published January 28th 2014 by Balzer + Bray

“If you desired someone, if he comforted you, if you thought he might leech the poison out of your heart, was that love? Or only desperation?” 

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

My Review

“Knowing the truth is not always a kindness.” 

When the synopsis promised a different take on the classic fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, never in my wildest speculations did I think that it would amount to this- this artistically written poetic jumble of lore, legend and myth. 

Enter Nyx Triskelion- daughter raised like a lamb for slaughter, to atone for the sins of her father and avenge her dead mother. Nyx's character was perfect because of her imperfections, most of which made her seem eerily real. The jealousy and hatred that gripped her adolescent heart, the love she tries to bear her sister even though she despises her, her gnawing desire for affection and acceptance and her quest for vengeance were all beautifully written.

“If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.” 

Ignifex's or the Demon Lord's character was another delight. His snarky comments, the occasionally seen vulnerable side, his acceptance of his cruel nature and less-than-noble intents and his devil-may-care attitude made him the perfect YA hero/anti-hero. A more interesting characterisation was that of his pious-than-though shadow self Shade. Shade's personality was as complex as Ignifex's. Throughout the book, it was impossible to judge or predict anyone's intentions or actions. All of them were immensely flawed creatures searching for their true selfs.

“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” 

“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.”

The plot was fantastic- a completely twisted take on the classic fairy tale. The complexity of the story increased somewhat exponentially in the latter chapters but the initial ones had enough banter and description to keep me occupied. 

“And you would know so much about women, locked up in your castle."

"Locked up with eight wives. And sometimes I make house calls for my bargainers. There's many a lovely woman desperate enough to bargain with me." 

This idea had never occurred to me before. "You touch another woman and I'll cut your hands off," I snapped.

He looked delighted. "I thought you were afraid of hurting me.” 

I loved the bickering between Nyx and Ignifex, her exasperation and his wisecracks, their delicate dance for dominance. 

“If you start wondering how this house works, you'll likely go mad. That could be amusing, I suppose. Especially if it's the kind of madness that causes you to run naked through the hallways. Do feel free to indulge in that anytime.” 

The naming of characters was interesting. Ignifex and his masters- the so called villains of the story- were named the Gentle Lord and the Kindly Ones respectively. It was a fantastic oxymoron because even though they twisted their bargains with the humans viciously around loopholes, they still left clues for the poor unsuspecting humans to find their way out of the mess they created. 

This is a story not just about love and passion and vengeance, but also about hatred and self discovery and consequences. It tells us that everything in life is a result of the decisions we make, that everything has a price, that no one is completely pure and everyone has a little poison in their heart and an internal demon just waiting to be cut loose. 

“We'll both be foolish," I said, "and vicious and cruel. We will never be safe with each other."

"Don't try too hard to be cheerful." His fingers threaded through mine.

"But we'll pretend we know how to love." I smiled at him. "And someday we'll learn."


Highly recommended. 
Rating: 4/5 stars

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