by Rosamund Hodge
To be published by Balzer + Bray
on January 28, 2014
Source: Thanks to Harper Collins for allowing me to read an e-ARC of this book through Edelweiss.
Connect with the author: website | Facebook | Twitter.
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 take: I love retellings, especially fairy tale retellings. Cruel Beauty, an imaginative, beautifully written Beauty and the Beast retelling, offered the perfect story to read on a cold winter day. The book's setting, a Greco-Roman inspired fantasy world, was intriguing. I also loved the way that Cruel Beauty adapted the original tale. In the fairy tale, a merchant picks a rose from a beast's garden. Threatened with death, he offers the beast his daughter in exchance. Cruel Beauty features a desperate man who struck a terrible bargain with the demon Ignifex in order to ensure that he and his wife would be blessed with children. In return, his daughter Nyx was betrothed to Ignifex since birth, but she was also always told that she'd have to kill him. This aspect of the story -- the bargain, along with the fact that Nyx must try to guess the demon's name -- reminded me of Rumplestiltskin. I also thought that Cruel Beauty borrowed tidbits from Bluebeard -- a bride who lives in a house with locked, forbidden rooms.
As the synopsis indicates, Nyx is drawn to her demon husband -- but also to someone else. As I was reading I (highlight blank area for spoiler) was convinced that somehow Ignifex and Shade were the same person . I had a theory that Shade was Ignifex's shadow that had been detached from him, (end spoiler) so I didn't really see the situation as a love triangle. However, I can see how the situation could be interpreted that way, and how, in that case, Nyx could come off as annoyingly indecisive for a married woman who claims to hate her husband and be attracted to him and to someone else. One of my favorite parts of Beauty and the Beast story is the hate-to-love progression, the way that Belle comes to see the Beast as more than a monster, and as worthy of her love. While I would have preferred that Nyx came to her attraction to Ignifex a little more slowly, their relationship had an unpredictable quality, plus an undertone of wackiness -- and even a mild kinkiness -- that I loved. The book has other welcome moments of irreverent humor, as when Nyx's aunt gives her a sex talk before sending her off to her demon husband.
I'm a big fan of Cruel Beauty and think that Rosamund Hodge is definitely a writer to watch. I loved her writing, loved the way her book took a familiar and beloved story and transformed it into something completely new, loved the characters and the ending. If you're a fan of retellings, you definitely should not miss this book!