Written by Rosamund Hodge
Published January, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Re-Tellings
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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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.
I just… didn’t enjoy this book. I’m so disappointed, too, because I had such high hopes for it with that amazing premise and gorgeous cover. And some of my favourite readers and reviewers LOVED this one and seemed to promise instant FAVOURITE status. I guess I’m just one of those ‘other fifty-perfect’ who didn’t quite get it.
“You were sent here to die. You were the one that was not needed, was not wanted, and they sent you here because they knew you would never come back.”
While I enjoyed the first few chapters in where our main character, Nyx, tells us about her family’s curse as she prepares to wed the ‘Gentle Lord’, as soon as she gets to the castle of said Lord, all my interest in this book sadly faded away. It was a mixture of an unlikeable protagonist, all-too-confusing plot and inclusion of some mythology and magic I found unnecessary.
Let’s start with the protagonist, Nyx Triskelion. Initially I applauded Rosamund Hodge for writing a female protagonist with a lot of darkness and hatred in her heart. She wasn’t your run-of-the-mill ‘do-gooder’… this girl actually had resentment and hate and was quite realistic in that manner. She simply didn’t go quietly when it came to the fate her father had decided for her. Although she knew there was no getting out of the fact she was to wed the ‘Gentle Lord’, a demonic monster who controls their world of Arcardia, she didn’t pretend like everything was okay. She knew her duty, but didn’t forgive her father for putting her in that position.
As soon as Nyx moves into the weird and confusing castle of the ‘Gentle Lord’, also known as Ignifex, my admiration for her began to waver. Nyx was constantly making radical decisions mere seconds after devising a safer plan. She constantly worried about dying, yet moments later resigned herself to the fact she was here to die anyway. I just felt as if she was all over the place! Not to mention that someone as brash and resentful as Nyx fell for the all-too-common affliction known as ‘insta-love’…
“They said that love was terrifying and tender, wild and sweet, and none of it made any sense. But now I knew that every mad word was true.”
Ahh, insta-love. How I don’t miss you. I lost a lot of respect for Nyx after she all-but declares her love for Shade, a shadowy prisoner and sort-of-guard for the Gentle Lord, Ignafex. After two meetings and a kiss or two, Nyx is practically professing her love for him and feeling torn that she is married to Ignafex instead of Shade. I wanted to be like ‘Hello? You are here to save Arcadia and yourself! Get a grip!’ There was way more important stuff going on at this point and I thought someone as headstrong as Nyx would’ve got that.
If insta-love wasn’t enough, there’s a bit of a love triangle. Nyx also starts developing feelings for Ignafex himself. She flip-flops between him and Shade all while trying to puzzle out their resemblance to one another.
Other than the romance, a lot is happening plot-wise… and I felt it was possibly too much. It wasn’t enough for Cruel Beauty to be a re-telling of sorts of Beauty and the Beast – there’s also a slew of information on ancient mythological gods as well as the fantasy aspect of ‘Hermatic’ magic. I felt as if it could have done without it. The Hermatic magic felt quite unnecessary in the grand scheme of things, as Nyx’s proficiency for it kind of became redundant in the overall plot.
Nyx also finds herself constantly exploring the ever-changing maze that is Ignafex’s castle, which only gets weirder and weirder as the book goes on. I was constantly waiting for a shred of explanation, but it never came. When Nyx finally discovers something about the castle’s history and the true identity of Ignafex, she promptly forgets it upon waking and we as readers never learn of these visions until the end of the book.
I was just so frustrated with getting no answers.
“The Kindly Ones would say it didn’t matter. And maybe they were right. We still could have snatched happiness from our tragedy if we had made the right choices, the right wishes. If we had been kinder, braver, purer. If only we had been anything but what we were.”
When it finally came down to the explanation and the true identity of Ignafex and Shade, I felt as if it could have been done more simply. It wasn’t enough to then solve the mystery, there was then a ‘time rewound itself’ portion of the novel where our characters had to overcome even more obstacles before the book ended. All in all, it just felt very ‘messy’ and all over the place.
By the time it ended, I found that I didn’t care much for any of the characters or if they got their ‘happily ever afters’. Nyx had turned into someone who had no personality beyond being ‘in love’, Ignafex wasn’t all that evil and daunting, Shade was wishy-washy and Nyx’s sister was completely two-faced.
I liked some of the world and the customs that Rosamund Hodge penned, but when it all came down to it, there was just too much going on and I spent most of the book confused. I had to re-read certain paragraphs and sentences to understand what was going on, and even then sometimes it wasn’t quite clear. I think if the mythological portion of the book had been removed, things would have flowed a bit better for me.
Will you be the fifty-percent that deems this book perfection? Or will you join me in the fifty-perfect that was left scratching their heads? There’s only one way to find out, I guess!