Release Date: January 28, 2014
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.
Once upon a time, in a land much too far away from Henrietta, Virginia, a classics nerd with a funny accent screamed her way through the first 32 pages of a fairy tale/Greek mythology retelling titled Cruel Beauty. Not that this isn’t completely normal behaviour when it comes to gorgeously written books with stunning covers, but the main reason was this: in the categories of impressively excellent research and excellently impressive world-building, this book was found to be perfection.
Firstly, this was expressed in the specific writing style the verily talented Rosamund Hodge used. For her prose was found to be so Roman in its storytelling, with a penchant for hyberbole, enigmatically and almost sparingly relating to events of the past, and an overall sense of aggrandising and mythologising this past, when it came to the mythological basis of this world. As if this wasn’t already enough of a classics nerd’s wet dream, this clever author decided to complete her mastery of the language of Roman epics with the use of epitheton ornans (!!) Why, Virgil himself would have been proud and, let’s be real here, probably a bit envious of her technique, for the implicit mythology and world-building present in the language earned itself quite a few nerding-out sessions.
On a second level, this author constructed a society that perfectly fits into the Graeco-Roman creation story and has unfortunately (for them) devolved into the iron age. The research extends from the actual mythologies and stories to linguistic accuracy and to what these stories signify in terms of the social-anthropological context and need out of which they were created, and it understands all these elements so perfectly and makes them part of Nyx’s story. Here the blend of inspirations and genres becomes of import, because instead of creating a typically epic (coded: male) hero in this world, Hodge opts for a fairy tale heroine.
So when the line “if telling fairy tales would help anyone” rolled around, the funnily-accented reader completely lost her shit in the best possible way because the tradition of the fairy tale as a genre in which uncommon and unexpected heroes triumph is actually very much of significance for the girl who’s fated to die. Having those stories as an inspiration actually really would help her, pathetic excuse for a father figure, especially seeing as how Nyx was brought up on hate, anger and resentment, while her sister was told to live for love.
And then to think tHAT SHE FEELS FOR FEELING IMPIETY TOWARDS HER MOTHER. IMPIETY. WHICH IS POSSIBLY THE NUMBER ONE MORAL CRIME WHEN IT COMES TO ANCIENT ROMAN SOCIETY AND THEIR IDEOLOGY BECAUSE THE ROMAN HEROES AND IDEALS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE PIUS (PIOUS) AND HAVE PIETAS FIRST OF ALL BECAUSE THE GODS WERE EVERYTHING AND THAT’S WHY VIRGIL CREATED AENEAS BECAUSE HE WAS SUPPOSED TO REPRESENT ROMAN MORES.
Hodge could have used other words, such as disrespect or disobedience or disappointment but SHE WENT WITH IMPIETY WHILE JUXTAPOSED WITH THE SECTION ON THE LARES A.K.A. THE ROMAN GODS THAT WERE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT EACH HOUSEHOLD AND I AM NOT OKAY BECAUSE THIS IS SO VERY SIGNIFICANT BUT ALSO SO VERY EASY TO MISS. Because in the end this is a fairy tale heroine dropped in an epic world with more or less everyone betting against her but then she wins everything and stomps on that supposed male supremacy of the traditional Graeco-Roman epics and I can never adequately explain how important this intersection is.
And then she throws in the sexy-ass demon lord Ignifix, who can honestly get it every day of the week with those demon eyes, but this is also where it all went a bit wrong. Because how are you going to promise us hot demon sex in the sky and then NOT SHOW IT. And wouldn’t it have been so much more interesting if our fairy tale heroine had decided to become The Demon Lady? I think it would have. And maybe the last 10 pages shouldn’t have happened because then the book would have ended much more tragically, but also rather beautifully in its sadness? I think so. The resolution was a bit of a dud. Shade and his irrelevant ass never should have gotten the page time that they did. That made Nyx seem unnecessarily naive and damn it, I’m still slightly bitter over the fade-to-black demon sex in the sky.
“I’m your wife! I burn for your touch! I thirst for your love!” I didn’t know where the terrible words were coming from, but I couldn’t stop them.
“I’ll do anything, I’ll-”
I realized he was laughing.
“You don’t do anything by halves, do you?” he said.
“I didn’t even get halfway with killing you, but give me the knife and I’ll fix that.”