Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty

CRUEL BEAUTY
Rosamund Hodge
Paranormal Young Adult
352 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available January 28th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
Every page of Cruel Beauty lives up to its title, painting gorgeous images in our minds that encourage us to stare blatantly so captivated are we by what we see, but much as the rose that graces its cover, that beauty is not without thorns, and the deeper we journey into this story the more cuts and scratches we bear. The characters in this tale could never be described as likable; likable is far too bland a term for the Gentle Lord, his shadow, and his sacrificial wife. They are quite simply magnetic, drawing us to them with no promise we'll like what we see when we get close, but therein lies part of the appeal: The possibility that what's waiting for us at close range could either win us over completely or drive us away forever. They take the uglier parts of human nature and reflect them back at us unflinchingly, but just when we think they'll stride boldly across the line that will make them irredeemable, they take an enormous step back, casting a smug look over their shoulders in triumph at having led us to believe we'd finally reached the point at which our emotional response to them would become fixed rather than fluctuating.

It's apparent from the very beginning that Nyx is no Belle–no paragon of sweetness and light who charms everyone who crosses her path–instead we get a very angry young woman, caught up in a painful cycle of resentment and remorse as she struggles to make peace with the die her father cast for her. She is not so hateful as to be someone who pushes us away from the first page though, rather she sweeps us up in her beautiful storm of emotions and we don't find our footing again until well after we've closed the back cover. She both gets hurt and inflicts pain, provides comfort and rips it away, and finds love in one breath before betraying it the next, ensuring we dance a bruising jig in trying to keep up with her and the infinitely intriguing house of shadows and secrets she now calls home.

The Gentle Lord and his simultaneously obedient and defiant shadow–separate but inexorably linked entities–are as darkly complex as Nyx herself, daring us one chapter after the next to solve their seemingly unending riddles. They are striking illustrations with captions in an indecipherable language, forcing us at any one point to work with only half the information we need to figure them out completely, eyes open and searching for any clues every action or inaction might provide. Both play Nyx's heart to drastically different tunes, and while the presence of a romantic relationship divided into thirds is often something akin to nails on a chalkboard, in this case it is a dark symphony of discordant notes inexplicably blended together to make haunting and utterly memorable music.

Overall, Cruel Beauty is an unusual and twisted tale, pieces of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairytale combining with threads of Greek mythology to give us a story where love both saves and destroys in equal measure, leaving us wondering up to the very last page how things will end for our wickedly intriguing characters.

Rating: 4/5
 

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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

36 comments:

  1. This story was so freaking unique! I actually didn't know what to expect when I started it and I was positively surprised. It was surreal and mixed with lovely mythology! Loved the complexity of Nxy and The Gentle Lord:)

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    1. Wasn't it? I just loved it and can't wait to see what Rosamund writes next:)

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  2. Confused, it looks contemporary, not fantasy at all

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  3. I'm happy that Nyx is the completely opposite of the overly-cheerful Belle of Disney fame. Nyx should be pissed off. She should have anger issues, being forced into a life over which she has no control. Such a unique story!

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    1. I really liked Nyx! I know she will rub a lot of people the wrong way, but I liked how angry she was about her circumstances, I would have been beyond pissed. Hell hath no fury and all that.

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  4. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Jenny! I loved the dark twist on this classic tale and particularly Nyx's unlikeable character. I often dislike B&tB because Belle is just TOO nice sometimes so having Nyx be the exact opposite was such a great literary choice. Wonderful review, dear!

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    1. Nyx is definitely not sweet and innocent like Belle. She's dark and angry and I loved her:)

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  5. I'm happy to see that you enjoyed this one so much, Jenny.
    I very much liked this one too and I adored Nyx's character because she was so realistic. I did have some trouble understanding the world-building though.
    Lovely review!

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    1. I'm so glad you liked Nyx as well Nick. I was just fascinated by her:)

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  6. I really did love this one, it was so unusual and such a great twist of darkness on an other wise happy tale.

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    1. YES! I was such a fan of how dark this one was, I wasn't expecting it and it was a good surprise:)

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  7. I think I dismissed this book too quickly, Jenny. I had so much to read that sometimes I just pass on titles and your review has me definitely re-thinking that decision. I want to read this one now!

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  8. I've seen this cover all over the blogosphere and had absolutely no idea what it was about. So thank you for the review! I'm really intrigued with the mixture of mythology and fairy tale story. I'm glad that Nyx didn't turn you off in the story. I'm sure she was a hard character to like at first. Can't wait to read this one. Beautiful review as always, Jenny!

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    1. I loved the Greek mythology/fairytale combination Rummanah. SO GOOD:) And I liked how different Nyx was from the typical "beauty" character.

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  9. Ohhhh…I love the sound of this one and the fact that it pulls from Beauty and the Best (my fave!). It's interesting to me that Nyx is the opposite of Belle….definitely intriguing. I plan on reading this one, so I am glad that you enjoyed it overall! Thanks for the great review!

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    1. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite too Christina! I so hope you like this story:)

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  10. Gorgeously written, Jenny! Honestly, sometimes you make me want to go find something else to do, like bake. Anything that doesn't involve writing. :)
    You had more luck with this than I, possibly because I dislike retellings so intensely. It just didn't work for me, and the final part was a complete, confusing mess. But I did appreciate the attempt to do something different and the occasionally lovely writing.

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  11. OOoh nice review!! I am have been head over heels for this books for months on end. I was devastated to be rejected (again) multiple (again) times for this one! But at least the wait is nearly over as I cannot wait to read this one!

    Glad to heart that is was an amazing read! Great review!

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  12. I really enjoyed Cruel Beauty, and like you mention, I actually liked the fact that the characters were flawed and so compelling. And the world of Arcadia and that house- was amazing. Glad you enjoyed it and wonderful review, Jenny!

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  13. This was the book I was scheduled to read next, and I am excited. I have read some fantastic reviews for it. I like that it uses Beauty and the Beast and greek mythology. That paragraph about human faults being thrust at you and then taking steps back was lovely, Jenny!

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  14. Oh I enjoyed this one too and I did love how they were both kind and cruel. What did bother me was Nyx from time to time. I mean give yourself a break girl! Berating herself did grate on me from time to time, but I also loved how it all came together in the end too. :)

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  15. I've seen mixed reviews for this one, Jenny, but your review has convinced me to give it a try, especially since I love retellings and Greek mythology. It doesn't hurt that you described the characters as wickedly intriguing!

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  16. This is one I will be reading and your review is beautiful Jenny. I know if you loved it I will too.

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  17. Oh, I love reading your reviews. I think Keertana wrote a review of this one and she explained the characters so well and the dance they do never falling into one camp, good or evil. Your review is like poetry. Maybe you should also add book blurbs to your list of services on Seedlings....I am sold! Onto the TBR it goes. I must get to know Nyx. I might have to name a future dog after her.

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  18. I really enjoyed this book! I loved how Beauty and The Beast was retold and the romance between Nyx and the gentle lord. I agree with you about the imagery being great. Amazing review, Jenny :)

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  19. I'm reading this one right now so I told myself not to read your review and come back and read it properly later, but I couldn't help myself. :-) I'm loving it so far and so far your beautiful review is absolutely spot on. I especially love this "a dark symphony of discordant notes inexplicably blended together to make haunting and utterly memorable music." Absolutely gorgeous review! Can't wait to dive back into this tonight. :-)

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  20. Belle she is not, and that's why I loved her so much. I liked this better than B&B, honestly. I'm just dark that way. lol. Seriously, this was a gorgeous review, Jenny.

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  21. I just recently read this book and soooo love it! I think it has a great plot. And the gentle lord totally won my over!

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  22. Sounds like a darkly beautiful re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. I do love that fairy tale so I'll have to check this out sometime. Lovely review, Jenny! :)

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  23. I LOVED this book! This was a romance that really messed with my emotions, it was great! The Gentle Lord was such a wonderful character! I just wanted more of him. :) More, more, MORE! The ending was almost confusing for me though, it was a little hard to wrap my head around everything. I'm not sure if it happened too fast or if I just read it too fast in my eagerness to find out. I'm not sure...

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  24. I'm so excited. The third raving review about CRUEL BEAUTY I'm reading tonight and I can barely hold myself back to order a copy right now (even though my TBR pile is enormous..). Love that this is a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Thanks for your great review, Jenny!

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  25. I didn't think I would love this book as much as I did. It took me some while to understand the hermetic workings and it's importance to Nyx's goal, but after everything was well explained and clear in my mind, this book was a smooth ride. I loved every second of it! I wish we would've known more about the ending, I'm still a little confused over what happened. Great review, Jenny!

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  26. This is a really beautiful review. I like this sentence a lot: "while the presence of a romantic relationship divided into thirds is often something akin to nails on a chalkboard, in this case it is a dark symphony of discordant notes inexplicably blended together to make haunting and utterly memorable music." I also like when you say that love equally saves and destroys. I loved these characters because they're unlikable and in many ways unforgivable. Such a unique retelling!

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