Book Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I don’t often read YA, not because I have an issue with it, but because I usually prefer things on the sexier side. And I don’t read a lot of fantasy because…I just don’t. But I don’t care about genre or age when it comes to Beauty and the Beast tropes and retellings, so I checked this one out on audiobook. Get ready. I might gush a bit.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
A young woman is sent to marry and destroy the demon that was responsible for her mother’s death, thereby freeing her people from his reign. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Slow Pace
Let me say first that this book wasn’t perfect. There were a lot of side stories and parts that seemed to drag on. But I tend to be more forgiving with audiobooks, as it’s a different way of reading and tends to go slow anyway. Also, when I thought of this as a movie, I’m pretty sure Tim Burton would have to direct it. I would totally pay to see it though.

Unwanted Responsibilities
Nyx has been raised with the knowledge that when of age, she’ll be sent to the home of the Gentle Lord, a demon who rules over her world and makes shady bargains with people, to be his wife. This is the result of a bargain her father made with him years ago, a bargain that got him what he wanted but also caused the death of their mother (which her father hadn’t foreseen). What her family hopes will happen is that Nyx will actually defeat the Gentle Lord by killing him. Nyx plans to try to do just that, though she assumes she’ll simply end up dead. Though resigned to her fate, unlike the “Beauty” in other stories, Nyx isn’t a kind and gentle girl. She’s actually bitter and angry that her father has put this on her. She hates her father and to an extent, her twin sister, who is coddled and loved by her father in a way she never was.

Supernatural Threesome
Ignifex, her new husband, isn’t what she expected. At first she hates him because that’s what she’s been raised to do (and also he’s a demon, so there’s that). But the more time she spends with him, the more her hate turns to something else. Ignifex is sarcastic and unapologetic for being the lord of bargains, but Nyx starts to find that she’s drawn to him. Matters are made more complicated by Ignifex’s shadow servant, Shade, who has the same face as Ignifex, though minus the demon eyes and with more of a death palor. Between Shade and Ignifex, Nyx finds her self in a strange situation where her affections are torn.

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Sunderings Never Turn Out Well
This world is so interesting. It blends stories of Greek mythology with demon lore. Nyx’s world is one that was sundered from the real world 900 years ago, so they don’t have a real sky, only a sky of white parchment. Part of the reason they want Nyx to defeat the Gentle Lord is because they hope it will undo the sundering. The way the author weaves this bit of world history in with Ignifex’s story is expert, and though I guessed a few of the secrets just based on the trope, there were some interesting twists that made this story unique.

Pretty Names
Nyx got my nerves a little bit, but no more than most young characters do. She’s torn between her eventual love for Ignifex and fulfilling the purpose for which she was raised (destroying him). There were so many times when as a reader, I was like “No! Don’t do that! You’re such a jerk….what are doing?” But the thing was, she didn’t know what I knew, so it was frustrating (and yes, I did get into this book that much). Ignifex was amazing. I loved his whole personality and the slow way in which Nyx fell in love with him. As for Shade, I guessed that he and Ignifex were part of the same whole, but it wasn’t entirely clear if I was right or not, so it kept me guessing.

A Touch of Creepiness
I said before that Tim Burton would have to direct this, and I wasn’t kidding, especially with regards to some of the creepier parts of the story. Nyx comes across fairly unsettling things, like the Gentle Lord’s previous wives (all dead now), and weird ghosty demon children who sing creepy songs at her. The way this was narrated made these parts unsettling and I loved it. It’s not often you get a blend of romance and subtle horror in one novel.

The Romance Factor
I swooned a bit over Ignifex and loved the slow build of emotion between him and Nyx. The romance in the little details, like her saving him from the darkness even though she hated him at the time and him cuddling her were sweet. There are also some great lines in this story, and dialogue which is beautifully written. Even though I know the outcome of every BatB story ever, I wasn’t sure how things were going to resolve, and the conflict towards the end had me in tears. 5/5

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The Steam Factor
This is a YA novel, and while some YAs have some sexy times, this one didn’t have any details. While Nyx and Ignifex were fairly sensual with each other in general, and it was made known when they finally “consummated” the marriage, the reader doesn’t see it happen. 1/5

Final Thoughts
The great story and good narration came together into an audiobook I had a really hard time stopping. This story is set in a beautiful world with flawed characters and puts a great twist on a classic fairy tale. While BatB is my favorite trope, I’m pretty much a fan of all fairy tale retellings, so my mission will be to acquire the other books by this author. I bought a novella and put a hold on another one of the author’s books through my digital library. I want to immerse myself in this world and I definitely plan on reading this one again.

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