Cruel Beauty – Rosamund Hodge
Genre: Romance, Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy, Young Adult
Release Date: 28th January 2014
The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
For fans of bestselling An Ember in the Ashes and A Court of Thorns and Roses, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.
Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known that her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom's mountaintop, nothing is what she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband. Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can't resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who's gotten in her way by stealing her heart.
Cruel Beauty is a book I have had on my TBR list even before it was released. After its release I simply wasn’t willing to pay the steep price for the hardback copy of the books, not when I knew nothing of the author (debut books can always be hit or miss) and had seen a couple of mixed reviews on the book following the release. I then decided to wait for the paperback copy and I would then make my mind up about the book. Then, I saw that Mel at The Daily Prophecy had given it an extremely good rating, and I trust her opinion in regards to all fairytale retellings, and it kept popping up on the blogosphere so I decided to take the plunge and invest.
Cruel Beauty is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but it does not really go as expected. I admit my knowledge of Beauty and the Beast does not go much beyond the Disney film (and it was one of my favourites) so I couldn’t be completely sure what to expect. I did not expect what I got, though. This was a magical and dark book where our main character, Nyx, is not the nice, innocent Belle of the films. She is angry and resentful and thinks mean thoughts about her sister, her family, her mother and those around her. She is cruel and spiteful and recognises this flaw in herself, she knows she is not selfless and good as you would expect of a fairytale heroines. Instead, she is resentful of her lot in life, that she has been forced to spend her entire life in preparation to marry a demon. It is not even any old demon, but the Gentle Lord, prince of the demons who terrorise her world. And Ignifex, the Gentle Lord, is not the hateful demon intent on hurting people with the demons he controls. He is not the malicious demon prince you expect who accepts bargains from people and enjoys what he does. He may be glib and believe many deserve the fate they get, but it is the fate they make for themselves. People are so selfish and righteous thinking they are making the bargain and sacrifice for the best of reasons, and really it is for selfish reasons.
I have to say, the story itself surprised me. Nyx has been promised to the Gentle Lord as a bride ever since her birth. She has spent the majority of her life aware of her fate and being trained by her father to overcome the Gentle Lord and return their world to safety, and she has resented this fate for herself for various reasons you learn about in the book. The entire book follows Nyx’s journey as a new wife to a demon and her attempts to overthrow him, as she has been raised to do. Yet, Nyx finds herself discovering her world is not all as it seems.
I actually find myself understanding the love triangle which occurs in this book. I may not have agreed with it, but I understand how it developed, and once you reach the end of the book you find yourself looking at it in a whole new light. Nyx falls for the shadow who is a servant to Ignifex, Shade. She likes his gentleness and kindness and the help he offers in her trying to kill the Gentle Prince. Shade actually believes she can do what she has been sent to do when she continually doubts herself. At the same time, she is slowly learning more about Ignifex, her husband, and that he is not quite as cruel as he appears, and certainly not as cruel as the stories say. It’s strange, you may think Nyx is simply suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, but that isn’t the case. She is aware that Ignifex is not nice or kind and questions what is wrong with her for finding any good in him, and she finds herself thinking she is not good enough for Shade as she finds herself falling for Ignifex. Some also claim there is some insta-love going on in the book, but I don’t think so. She never claimed to love either character instantly, it developed as she got to know them. I actually really enjoyed the romance.
As the story unfolds you find yourself wavering with the love triangle, you find yourself not trusting what is happening because nothing happens as it should. Good is not always good and bad isn’t always bad and it just leaves you confused. Ignifex shows moments of weakness and kindness which leaves you doubting he is the cruel demon prince you are initially introduced to. Characters like Shade and Nyx’s sister, Astraia, are presented as being good characters, and they later act against how you perceive them to be, acting cruelly and selfishly in some ways. It was strange, the characters in this book are very real because they act in ways you hate, and that made it an interesting read for me.
I really enjoyed this book, the story was not the obvious one and that made it all the more enjoyable. You got a story told in a completely new way with interesting twists in the tale to make it a good book. The characters were fantastic, it is not often you read about characters who are not nice and sweet, but instead are selfish, cruel and often vengeful, these are the kind of characters I want to read about. I want characters with slightly questionable morals who make you feel something about them. And most importantly, it was written well! It was not the most fast paced story, but you don’t get bored. Things develop naturally but detail is not missed. The writing was fantastic and Rosamund Hodge may become one of my favourite authors if Crimson Bound is as good as this.
Have you read Crimson Bound? Please give me your thoughts below. And I’d love to hear what your favourite Beauty and the Beast retelling is, I’ve seen a few now, but any old retelling is welcome really.