Publishing Info: January 28, 2014 by HarperCollins
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: January 12, 2013
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.
Firstly, the cover of CRUEL BEAUTY may easily be one of my favorites. I would say favorites this year, but we’re barely into it… I still think it’ll take the cake! And secondly, people should REALLY not make comparisons to other books like that. It’s definitely an interesting adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, but I couldn’t see the Graceling comparison at all. That was a bit of a disappointment for me… But that wasn’t the reason why I was disappointed with the book.
Yep. I said it. CRUEL BEAUTY was not quite all I had hoped it to be. I know so many people ended up loving this book, but I was one of the ones who enjoyed it, but still had quite a few issues. CRUEL BEAUTY kicks off with Nyx before her wedding day, doomed to wed The Gentle Lord — a demon who has taken control of the kingdom. She’s trained to defeat him all of her life but still may not come out of this marriage alive. I was really very caught by surprise of all of the mythology in this book and… well, mythology really isn’t quite my thing or what I was expecting. Of all of the mythology retellings or mythology-heavy books I’ve read lately, I’ve only really enjoyed one and even that didn’t knock me off my feet so I was nervous right off the bat. I really don’t connect with mythology and I’m not familiar with all of the stories and deities so that tended to get confusing and uninteresting for me.
The other thing that really bothered me throughout the book was sadly Nyx herself. The first half of the book was very repetitive for me, Nyx griping about her plight to marry the Gentle Lord and then once married, to destroy him, but all the while, she’s extremely bitter about it. Nyx is bitter about her father having arranged this marriage for her to be the one essentially sentenced to die instead of her twin sister. She’s bitter with her sister for being the one her parents loved. She’s bitter with her sister for getting their mother’s looks while Nyx resembles her father. She’s bitter with her aunt for stepping in in her mother’s absence and stealing her father’s affections. It was a lot of bitterness and a lot of complaining and when I’m first meeting a character, heavy negative connotations tend to turn me off. It was very hard for me to find Nyx to be a likeable character in the first half of the book and it was really difficult to read things from her point of view.
I’m not going to lie… I almost put down this book and didn’t pick it up again. The combination of my aversion to Nyx and a slow start (something that I continue to struggle with) made me almost DNF this book. I turned to my fellow bloggers who assured me that it did pick up and I really didn’t want to DNF only 30-40 pages in so I continued through and did find that to be true. Once Nyx ventures into the Gentle Lord’s castle, things really do start to pick up and I was definitely captivated by the mysteries that this castle holds. The moving staircases and doors reminded me of Harry Potter and we know that’s always a good thing! The rooms themselves were mysterious and I was definitely interested to see how much the house itself was alive, curious, and dangerous. But… (yep, there is a but) …. It just didn’t quite seem to fit together. There were questions left unanswered, mysteries that didn’t seem to serve any purpose, and the different aspects of the castle just didn’t seem to gel as one giant puzzle. I’m not sure what it was but I kept waiting for some big reveal or for all of these pieces to snap together and it just didn’t really happen for me.
I really enjoyed Ignifex (that would be The Gentle Lord) and his character development. I appreciated that at first glance, he’s just the big, bad demon lord, but like all good villains/antagonists, he has his own story that turns the tables a bit. At the same time, I would have loved to see so much more character development for him. I wanted more evil, more snark, more indecision as to whether Nyx should trust him or not. I wanted to fall in love with him and hate him at the same time. It just didn’t seem strong enough for what I was hoping.
Oh! I can’t believe I almost forgot about the love triangle. I mean, the sort of love triangle…? Let’s just say it’s a bit confusing and either way you put it, I was not really a fan. Both sides of this love triangle seemed a bit insta-lovey. I don’t really like using that term since I do believe in the whole attraction-but-not-quite-love-at-first-sight things, but it really did feel like Nyx fell for both of these parties way too quickly. Or not even quickly, implying that it happened early in the book, but just rapidly — a sudden change. Obviously I was rooting for Nyx and Ignifex to get over their whole death match thing and fall in love, just like Beauty and the Beast! You know it’s coming but the switch just seemed too abrupt. To go from STRONGLY loathing someone all your life to feel affection… I just didn’t get it.
The plot and general idea of the book could have also been awesome too but I felt like the book was written in pieces and somehow these pieces just didn’t quite all fit perfectly together. They all came back to create one story, but they didn’t seem like they fit well, and I’m also upset with the ending. Everything seemed to happen so fast and yet not. It was not a satisfying ending and just didn’t seem to work with how the rest of the book went.
I think overall, the book just felt very pieced together. The characters didn’t feel very developed. The world building could have totally blown me away but it felt very unfinished. Nothing felt cohesive. It was still an interesting read but this should have been a book that totally wowed me and it just didn’t do that much at all. I don’t think I’ve ever been so torn about a rating or a review because there was so much I had hoped for and did get some, but just not enough to really “wow” me.
Nyx // Character Obsessions: Defeating the Gentle Lord, staying alive, figuring out secrets.
Nyx was really hard to get along with for me… I just felt like she was too negative for the majority of the first half of the book and it took too long for her to sort of soften. By the end of the book, I had a better opinion of her but it still wasn’t good.
Ignifex // Character Obsessions: Maintaining the castle, imprisoning and yet romancing Nyx, general demon duties.
I really liked Ignifex when I first met him. He was evil. He was a demon lord. He had that crooked smile and easy snark. *fans self* But.. as the story went along, his character didn’t really get developed like I had hoped. He did get more layers to his story but I didn’t feel that emanate through his personality. I felt like we were told that this is his history but I didn’t really feel like his character really jumped off the pages like I wanted it to.
Kept Me Hooked On: Magic Castles. How amazing are magic castles? That was by far one of my favorite things about the book. The castle almost felt like a character itself (although even that “character” wasn’t as developed as I hoped).
Left Me Wanting More: Cohesiveness. My biggest issue with this book is that I felt like nothing really came together. There were plenty of interesting story lines, character possibilities, and sets of magic to explore, but nothing really felt like it came together. This book felt like it was written in large chunks and when those chunks were all merged into one book, they didn’t really quite work together.
I feel like I’m the minority here who was somewhat disappointed in it. A lot of people totally fell in love with this world so I would say definitely give it a shot if you were as excited for it as I was. Just BE AWARE that there is a lot of mythology! That totally caught me by surprise and it kind of turned me off in its own way.
(Click the cover to see my review!)