Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund HodgeCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 28th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Retellings, YA
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on Amazon

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.

Cruel Beauty is really confusing, even kind of a mess at first, but eventually the story does paint a gorgeous, dangerous picture. Still, much of it is quite mind-boggling. I’ve been mulling over what I read for days.

Retellings are always difficult for me, especially that I wasn’t big in fairy tales as a child. I’m kind of discovering them inside retellings, actually, so they can be a hit or miss. Cruel Beauty falls in-between for me. I did love the Beauty and the Beast angle, all while bringing an extremely creative story to the table. Originality is not something Cruel Beauty is lacking. It involves a world that becomes simply mind-blowing. Distorting the perception of everything you thought you knew, kind of mind-blowing. It’s not easy to grasp, either, as I’m still fighting the daze it put me in. However, I do enjoy the kind of imaginative visionary this type of story forces us into. Plus, this is not done without beauty. Everything is incredibly detailed and extremely stunning. Even the ugliness, the horror (which was awesome!), is painted such a fascinating way. The writing and imagery definitely get an A+!

With all that wonder and beauty, what went wrong? Well first let me say this is not a bad book. If you particularly enjoy high fantasy (which is not my genre of choice) I would not hesitate to recommend it. The biggest issue for me was trying to stay on top of the mythological info-dumps that felt like they were literally weighing be down. Not being the biggest Greek-mythology whiz, I often found myself lost inside the elaborate chronicle of mythical events that are generously shared throughout this novel.

Furthermore, I was not a big fan of the romance. I do have to say the love triangle ended up being utterly unique, however this doesn’t negate the fact that I never got emotionally attached to the love story – which is, ultimately, the heart of this novel. I think this is linked to my not exactly loving Nyx – the protagonist. She is very angry, and it often became all about this deep hatred that she has always felt towards her family – her situation. It’s completely not her fault, I even understand it somewhat, but there was still something about this all-consuming animosity that frustrated me. On the other hand, I did really like the love interest. He’s a complex, perplexing character that simply mesmerized me. I could not figure him out and it was as if I was being entranced by his charm, while feeling like I should fear him.

In the end, a book that is meant to be achingly romantic had too many distractions to make me fall in love with it. I just felt overwhelmed. The writing is especially elegant, though, and I do believe that readers who are better prepared for this story will absolutely love it.


3 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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32 Responses to “Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge”

  1. Jenny Q

    I was so stoked to read this one, but it fell short for me too. I was loving it up until the beginning of the end. I didn’t like the turn the story took or the way it ended. Great review!

  2. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    This sounds like something I would like! My favorite Disney movie is Beauty and the Beast and Graceling is one of my favorite books ever!!!!! I’m definitely giving this one a try. Hopelly I end up liking Nyx.

  3. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    I am so happy to read your thoughts on Cruel Beauty because they are almost exactly how I felt about this book. I’ve seen such love and I agree that the story is beautifully unique, writing is lush BUT I couldn’t get the connection to Nyx that I needed to feel invested in her story. I didn’t feel the romantic aspects and honestly the pseudo-love-triangle was bleh to me. Great review Giselle

  4. Kris (Imaginary Reads)

    I can totally see Cruel Beauty being a hit or a miss. If you can’t connect the characters, then it’s hard to like the romance. For me, I enjoyed the story overall, though I agree that the mythology gets confusing. I would have liked to see more backstory and world building overall. Lovely review, Giselle!

  5. Tammy Sparks

    I have this to read for review this month as well, and I’ve seen so many mixed reviews, that I’m curious to see which side of the fence I fall on. Thanks for the review!

  6. Cayce

    I hear you! I was never big on fairy tales either and retellings are normally not my thing. I do like the story of the Beauty and the Beast, but I’ve already read one retelling (Beastly) and I think that was enough 😀 Plus, high fantasy is not my genre (at all)

  7. Siiri

    You weren’t a fan of fairy tales as a child? o_o OOOKAY. I’ll just ignore this then. Yep. Ignored. EVERYONE talks about theoriginality with this piece of art. I’m reallllly looking forward to reading all about it. Yay for awesome writing as well. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the romance. Asa fan of Norse and Greek (and a few others) mythology, I hope I’ll still enjoy the mythology aspect and romance is usually always a plus for me, so, perhaps? maybe? Idk. I do love the premise though and I’m actually glad you weren’t blown away by this because I was starting to get a bit overwhelmed with all the hype. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful review, Giselle!

    • Giselle

      Yeah I was never really a girly girl. Plus with a big sister 4 years older I kind of skipped ahead to what she was watching/reading. Fairy tales were for babies by the time I was able to pick my own books and TV shows. When others were watching Cinderella, I was watching Freddie Krueger and the Ninja Turtles 😀

  8. Tina

    What a confusing read. I want to read it because of this beautiful writing everyone speaks of, but I need to be emotionally attached to the main characters to really enjoy a story or I find it a waste. Probably going to give this one a pass!

  9. Soma Rostam

    Hi, Giselle!
    I missed your reviews
    So, there’s Jenni, too , here.
    A new addition
    I kinda like it, 🙂
    I have heard a little about this book
    But I am intrigued
    GREaT review

  10. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I thought this was a confusing read too. I read it last week and I was boggled by the end and a lot of the world-building was quite confusing too. I did love the romance though unlike you but I didn’t enjoy the fact that they declared their love too easy. I also thought Nyx’ anger and animosity was kinda realistic and refreshing. And yes, Ignifex was intriguing.
    Great review, Giselle.

  11. Melliane

    I didn’t know this one but I’m a fan of the cover. For the retelling thing… well as you say it can be great or not. I had some bad one and some great one, so well at the end we need to try to no. Even if it’s in the middle for you, I think I’ll pass for this one because I think it will be the same for me.

  12. Amber

    You’re the second person I seen that gave this book a 3 rating an said it’s confusing and lacks romance. I’ve been super excited to read it. If I do, I’ll make sure I don’t have high expectations. Thanks for the review!!

  13. Savannah

    Hi Giselle! I’m the fairy-tale queen! I adored reading all about prince charming! But I can see where this book lack for you. Too much information on a history not really explained can be hard. Especially when you can’t connect. Still ,I want to give this book a try. Nice review!

  14. Alexa S.

    You know, I’ve been looking forward to this book for AGES. I loved Beauty and the Beast, honestly, and that’s my number one reason for reading this one. I’ve been hearing mixed things about it, but I’m still excited! I look forward to experiencing the imagination and imagery in this one.

  15. ShootingStarsMag

    Sorry you didn’t love this one too much. I was never a huge fan of fairy tales as a child either, beyond Disney movies and the like. I am curious about some of these re-tellings though.

  16. Alexa

    I think I will need to give this one a go. I do like high fantasy books and info dumps are pretty trademark of that genre so I’m kind of use to it by now. I do like the idea of a world that is completely unique and a storyline that just works very well. I’m sorry that you weren’t completely in love with the romance in this book but I read another review and the reviewer really loved the couple and their sarcastic nature so I think overall I will like this one. I’m only worried about it being a little too similar to Of Beast and Beauty.

    Thanks for the great review! I’m glad that you liked the book even though you didn’t end up loving it.

  17. Roro

    I love fairy tale tales. That is not a very “guy” thing to like but I do anyways. I have only read a couple ya retellings and I’m sad to hear that you felt detached for the characters. I’m so stoked to read this one. Soo exited. Tnx for the honest review Giselle

    Btw have you seen Frozen. A new Disney favorite of mine. It almost trumps Disney”s Beauty and the Beast , I say so myself . Happy reading for the next book(s)

  18. A Canadian Girl

    I love high fantasy and fairytale retellings so I was looking forward to reading this one, Giselle. Then I saw some negative reviews for this one and that kind of turned me off. None of the reviews mentioned Greek mythology though, which just happens to be another subject I love, so I guess I’ll be considering reading this one again.

    • Giselle

      This book is definitely for you then! It’s Greek mythology (a lot of it – surprised you haven’t seen it mentioned before!) meets Beauty and the Beast, set in an extremely fantastical world! I know that Blythe loved it and she likes fantasy a lot more than me.

  19. Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain

    I totally agree with what you said about the romance. It was really weird and Nyx was definitely one of those characters that took a long time to get used to. I’m not really a mythology geek either, so I can totally understand where this one went wrong with you in terms of the info-dumping of information. I’m glad that you really enjoyed the imagery and writing style, though, fantastic review, Giselle! <33

  20. Nova Lee @ Out of Time

    I’m reading reviews before I go and read the book. I have an ARC of it but with the seriously mixed reviews I’ve been getting, I’m not sure if I’ll like it. Some people REALLY like it and then there are people who are like “meh.” So lol, IDK.

    Great review! <33

  21. Pili

    I’m quite curious about this book. I’m quite confused now about how/why a retelling of Beauty & the Beast would have Greek mythology in there, but it seems that it’d be an added bonus for me, since I love it. This one is on my TBR list but I have many other books that are higher priority coming out on the same date! Plus, the love triangle… even if you say it was unique and worked well, I’m so wary of them!
    Thanks for a great review, Giselle!

  22. Megan

    I’m a big fan of fantasy, so I’m still definitely considering trying this one. And sometimes I don’t mind an angry heroine.

  23. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I just started this last night. I am really hoping that I enjoy it. I have noticed that Nyx seems very angry, though right now I understand her anger. I’m not very far into the book yet. I haven’t read a good fantasy in a while and I love retellings, so I am excited to continue reading this one! Great review!

  24. Amanda

    hmm I did want to read this book but now it sounds a lot like Of Beast and Beauty which I really enjoyed last year. I guess I still want to read this but for now I just hope it doesn’t become a repeat of a book I recently read and enjoyed.

    Thanks for the great review!

  25. Preethi @ KBMR

    I actually loved this book, probably because as a child, and even now, I was a HUGE fairy tale geek. But I definitely have to agree that “the beast” of the story was the best thing that ever happened;)

  26. Candace

    I have heard that the beginning is a bit difficult. I do enjoy fantasy, so hopefully I enjoy this more then you. But I think I have some reasonable expectations now anyway.

  27. Lizzy

    I’m even more stoked to read it now than before I read your review. I LOVE fantasy/mythology and I’m used to the info dumps that high fantasy books often have.

    Quote: However, I do enjoy the kind of imaginative visionary this type of story forces us into. Plus, this is not done without beauty. Everything is incredibly detailed and extremely stunning. Even the ugliness, the horror (which was awesome!), is painted such a fascinating way. The writing and imagery definitely get an A+!

    Sold! Thanks for the awesome review.

  28. tonyalee

    Aww! I actually REALLY LOVED this book! So sad to see you didn’t LOVE it :/

    I do agree, the book was really confusing at times and I was overwhelmed by the info dumps.

  29. Christina (A Reader of Fictions)

    My brain cannot process not being into fairy tales as a child.

    But but but Giselle. THE ROMANCE. Ignifex and Nyx are totally one of my OTPs now. They are so perfect together that I can hardly handle it. Also, I loved Nyx’s all-consuming hatred for most things. This may say a lot about our personalities. Haha. I always love the really bitchy heroines. :-p