AUTHOR: Rosamund Hodge
PUBLICATION DATE: January 28, 2014
GENRE: fairy tale spin-off; paranormal
GIVE IT TO: HS; fans of His Fair Assassin series (LaFevers)
SUMMARY: Since she was a little girl, Nyx Triskelion has known her future is doomed. Because her father made a desperate bargain with the demon Ignifex before she was born, Nyx is destined to be married to Ignifex when she is seventeen. Nyx plans to be ready for him, however, and she trains in the Hermetic arts in the hopes that she may one day kill Ignifex and free her people. But when Nyx travels to Ignifex’s castle, she is surprised to find that Ignifex is really not cruel to her at all. Soon enough, she begins to enjoy his company. And even as she plots his murder, she can’t deny that she is falling for him.
REVIEW: At first, I didn’t think I was going to end up liking this one because it reminded me so much of LaFevers’ Grave Mercy, which really wasn’t my cup of tea. In both books, the writing is absolutely beautiful, but as with fallen angel stories, the demon stuff just isn’t so much my thing.
So I am kind of surprised that I ended up enjoying this unique story. It’s a spin-off of Beauty and the Beast, mixed with tons of mythology. The characters, particularly Nyx and Ignifex, are incredibly well-developed. I love when characters are deeply flawed and yet still remain our heroes. The Pandora and Prometheus stories were especially captivating, and I love all the ways Nyx and Ignifex parallel that story. The fates of the eight previous wives reminded me a bit of Bluebeard, which is one of my favorite traditional stories and another huge plus for Cruel Beauty.
Hodge crafted this story well, with every detail and twist working to bring the whole together. Even the character names were chosen carefully, and I strongly recommend readers Google the names Nyx, Triskelion, Astraia, Leonidas, Thisbe, Shade (in its mythology sense), and the demon’s last name (once it is revealed) for some fascinating insight into the characters’ mythological counterparts. Ultra-cool.
The only thing I might complain about–slightly–with Cruel Beauty is the fact that I wasn’t exactly glued to the pages while reading. It was easy enough to put down, and it took me over a week to finish. It’s not an enormous deal, especially with a story this well-crafted, but I do have to mention it.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Cruel Beauty is one of the best-crafted stories I’ve read in awhile. Every detail works to create a final, whole picture, and it is delicious and beautiful and absolutely excellent. I’m pleasantly surprised to say will likely become one of my favorite reads of 2014.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: In my opinion, the sexual content (see below) is too much for many middle schoolers. I am a little on the fence with this book because the sexuality is mainly just discussed and not shown, but I think with the protagonists being married to each other, this book is a much better fit for high school. It’s such a great book though, which makes it difficult for me to not purchase this book for my high school shelf.
READALIKES: His Fair Assassin series (LaFevers)
- Overall: 4/5
- Creativity: 5/5–among the most creative I’ve seen recently
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 4/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: medium; some kissing, lots of talk of virginity, marital rights, “ravishing” of female body, off-the-page intercourse. It’s all tastefully done, but I think a bit mature for many middle schoolers.
- Violence: mild; dead bodies (not scary or gross)
- Drugs/Alcohol: none
- Other possible concerns: frequent mention of demons may frighten sensitive readers; Ignifex has slitted red eyes that some may find frightening