Before I start my rant and exaltations for Cruel Beauty, let it be known that it has nothing to do with Graceling. I really don’t know what’s gotten into the mind of the marketers of this book to say that it’s a sweeping fantasy where Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast. Seriously? Now that we’re clear about that, my second advice is to take this book with zero expectations. Don’t overanalyse it or somewhat because if you do, you might end up hating it.
Cruel Beauty might have gotten a 4-star rating from me, but it doesn’t mean that it’s one my greatest reads for 2013. It has flaws that might very well push some readers to despise it, but thank goodness, my patience got the best of me and thus, it surprisingly entertained me. Cruel Beauty is a story about Nyx Triskelion, a 17 year old girl who had been affianced to the Evil Prince of their village since her birth. Almost all her life, she harbored bitter feelings towards her family for her doomed future and at the same time, schemed morbid thoughts on how to kill her would-be husband and eventually, free the people of Arcadia. Will she succeed or not?
One of the most remarkable things about Cruel Beauty is that the main character is not your typical martyr “Belle” whose goodness of heart is beyond compare whatever. Nix is a bitter, malicious, vengeful and a scheming young lady who dances between the fine line of goodness and meanness. She hates her family, including her long dead mother, but at the same time, she loves them. It is when her feelings are so conflicted that I truly admire her. There were even times that I was almost convinced that she maybe the beast in the guise of a pretty maiden. Her personality greatly depicts that humans are innately bad, but ultimately, it is your choice whether you let darkness control you or you rise from your baser nature.
Nyx’s significant half, Ignifex, is also an enigma. Is he really the beast or the beauty trapped in his own prison? As much as I want to dissect his character, I couldn’t lest I risk you getting spoiled, my dears. I can, however, assure you that he will make you dizzy… he will make you frown… he will make you pause… he will make you curse… xD
The relationship between the characters was also praise worthy considering that Nyx is a vortex of conflicting emotions. You could never guess how she would exactly react when she’s interacting with her family, particularly her sister and with her husband, Ignifex.
Cruel Beauty is heavily entwined with Greek Mythology which I think would be a hit or miss for the readers. As for me, I was okay with it to the point that I was just taking a lot of things at face value. I didn’t overanalyse whether Hodge did her Greek assignment well or not because I didn’t pick this book because I want to read a greek mythos. I picked it up because it’s a retelling of one of my beloved fairy tales and I want to see if Hodge accomplished what she’s expected to deliver. And she did, folks. She did.
The world building was also commendable. Arcadia and the Prince’s castle are beautifully crafted and quite unique considering that fairy tale world building typically means that you have this castle in a far far away land whatever. But Hodge did something more to the setting that will leave you unsettled.
Though the plot was unique in its own way, I was not entirely happy with it. There were moments that it moved sluggishly and some events were getting repetitive. But for the most part of the journey, I was undeniably entertained. And friends, I think this is the only book where the instalove was slightly mindblowing. It seems like an instalove but it wasn’t really. I wish I could explain it without spoiling you. Please be happy though that Cruel Beauty didn’t rely on its romance to move forward. Its plot is dark, so please don’t expect that you’re going to read about tea pots animated to life and all that nonsense. It seamlessly combined a Greek Mythology and a levelled-up Beauty and the Beast story to tell a haunting tale that is Cruel Beauty.
Overall, this book did a great justice to our beloved Beauty and the Beast even with its faults. Rosamund Hodge certainly made an unforgettable debut out of Cruel Beauty.
***An ARC was freely provided by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Harper Collins and Balzer and Bray!***