Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Retellings, YA
Publication date: January 28th 2014
by Balzer & Bray
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.
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins for review-
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.