Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray on January 28, 2014
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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.
“Astraia might not be brave, but she wanted me to live. And here I was, wishing her dead in my place. If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.”
I happen to love the movie The Beauty and the Beast, and I’ve never read a retelling of the story, so I was intrigued.
“One of us had to die. That was the bargain Father had struck, and it was not her fault that he had picked her to be the one who lived, but every time she smiled, I still thought: She smiles because she is safe. She is safe because I am going to die.”
This novel was definitely engaging and interesting. It followed Nyx as she was set to be married to Ignifex, the Gentle Lord who rules their kingdom. She’s been trained to kill him since her birth and goes into the castle where he resides knowing that she will not live through it, but willing to sacrifice her life for the good of her kingdom. Little did she know, there was more to the Gentle Lord and his castle than she had anticipated, and she finds herself with feelings for both the Gentle Lord and his servant, Shadow.
This novel started out with a bang and got right in with the good stuff. There weren’t many lulls in the action and there was a very strong plot line that was followed. There were many surprises that I definitely didn’t see coming, and even in hindsight, wouldn’t have realized. I loved the element of surprise in the actions. The only bad thing I can say about it was that the ending was pretty confusing to understand. But it was okay, because there was still closure.
“All my life, I’d seen people driven mad by demons; I’d seen how everyone, weak or strong, rich or poor, lived in fear of them. If I carried out Father’s plan—if I trapped the Gentle Lord and freed Arcadia—nobody would ever by killed or driven mad by a demon again. No fools would make disastrous bargains with the Gentle Lord, and no innocents would pay the price for them. Our people would live free beneath the true sky.”
Nyx was tough. She was determined and a bit jaded, because all of her life she knew that she was going to die by the hand of the Gentle Lord. She hated her father and her sister for being able to live. Hated her father and the Gentle Lord for making the deal that sealed her fate. And hated herself for hating her family. She was definitely a character that I could relate to. Although she didn’t think so, she was a very selfless character. She was also very compassionate, even towards those who she thought were evil.
“‘But just one knife?’ he said. ‘A prudent warrior would carry two. Or did I miss one?’ He leaned forward. ‘Will my lady wife let me check?’ I smashed my fist into his face.”
Ignifex was the main male in this novel. He was evil in every way that you would think. He was snarky and mean and not gentle at all. But he was also complex. Nyx definitely grew on him, even though it took a really long time. We got to see the slightly less dark side of the evil lord, just like in Beauty and the Beast, and I began to sympathize with Ignifex. There was more to his story than I originally anticipated, and I found myself falling in love with his character as the novel progressed.
Shadow was the other male protagonist. We didn’t really learn much about Shadow that I could say that wouldn’t spoil anything, but like Ignifex, there was more to him than meets the eye. He also catches Nyx’s affection. Shadow is Ignifex’s slave, but there is definitely more to his story. Although I enjoyed Ignifex’s character more, Shadow was nice too, and like Nyx, was trying to do best for the kingdom.
“‘We’ll both be foolish,’ I said. ‘And vicious and cruel. We will never be safe from each other.’ ‘Don’t try too hard to be cheerful.’ His fingers threaded through mine.”
The romance, in my opinion, was the best part. It was definitely slow building with lots of tension. An arranged marriage turned love with an evil twist. I loved reading Ignifex and Nyx together from the very beginning, because they complemented each other so well. Sure,Ignifex was evil and Nyx wasn’t, but she tried to talk sense into him and wouldn’t take crap from him, even if he was threatening her. I liked how this was truly a hate-to-love romance. And then there was Shadow and Nyx. We didn’t see a lot of them, not nearly as much as her and Ignifex. But they just didn’t have the sparks that Ignifex and Nyx did.
“Everything in the physical world arises from the dance of the four elements, their mating and division. This principle is one of the first Hermetic teachings. So for a Hermetic working to have power, its diagram must invoke all four elements in four ‘hearts’ of elemental energy. And for that power to be broken, all four hearts must be nullified.”
From the very beginning of this novel, we are thrown into a fantasmic world based on Greek mythology. The kingdom’s history and being was so intricately weaved, it could have been a real place with a real history. Hodge didn’t just gloss over the background information. She incorporated it seamlessly, flawlessly, and largely. History took on a big role in this novel and the lives of the character, and I’m glad that it was so well done, because it made for easy reading and understanding, without the question of, ‘What happened back then?’.
Cruel Beauty hooked me in right from the start. A novel set in a mythological world and based off of my favorite Disney fairytale, Cruel Beauty was a story about love, hate, and saving what matters to you the most.