Friday, February 14, 2014

A Tale As Old As Time || Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

This review was posted as part of A Tale as Old as Time.

Cruel Beauty Rosamund Hodge book cover
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks Harper Collins!) || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

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. (from Goodreads)

Today, as part of A Tale as Old As Time, I have the pleasure of being joined by my friends Racquel & Sharon of The Book Barbies for a joint review of Cruel Beauty. We were all eager to read this debut novel, especially when we heard that it was inspired by Beauty and the Beast! To simplify things, we've divided our review into a couple of relevant sections below:

NYX

Alexa: It's always interesting when a character has a destiny that's predetermined for them at birth, or early on in their lives. It influences the way they are brought up, the expectations people have of them and the ir expectations of themselves. This is probably part of the reason Nyx was such a convoluted character! In this world, there's a dark side and a light side - Nyx is always at war with these two sides of her self. I like that she's not this perfect pristine princess, but that she's a complex, conflicted character. She eventually learns to accept herself, as well as believing in her choices (the ones that are "right").

Racquel: One awesome thing about these characters is that they're not flawed in the sense you're used to. They're not good with a pure white heart and have some flaws here and there; they're WAAAAY more complex than that. They're not 100% bad, but they're not good either. Take Nyx, she's being offered as sacrfice to be married to Ignifex so their Kingdom can remain safe and she's NOT happy. BUT WHO WOULD BE?! She's about to be sent to her death! So yeah, she's not happy. On some level, she's even resentful that she is sacrifice and not her sister. She's jealous that her sister gets to live and she's being sent to her death and I LOOOVED THIS! Sure, Katniss is cool and all but COME ON, what Nyx is experincing is human and real!! I am SO glad Hodge didn't shy away from this! "Likeable" characters are such an issue and it seems MC's have to be perfect so a reader can "enjoy" a book but our Nyx is complex with a range of emotions. Despite knowing she's being sent to her death, she's not going down with a fight. Cue awesome attempt scenes of Nyx turning to kill our Beast, Ignifex. It. Was. Awesome!

Sharon: I'm basically going to be echoing a lot of Racquel's thoughts here, but this is something we discussed a lot right after we read it. How AWESOME is it to have a book where the characters aren't perfect? Nyx is awesome, but she's not flawless. She has resentments, hesitations, misunderstandings, and mistakes. But she also has courage and a strong drive to do the right thing, whatever she determines that to be. In the beginning, it's obviously loyalty to her father and his cause that is driving Nyx, but obviously as the story goes on, Nyx realizes that maybe everything she has learned isn't exactly accurate. And she has to learn how to deal with that.

IGNIFEX

Alexa: Ignifex fascinated me completely from the very beginning. He was just so interesting to read about! Everyone has an idea of what this evil, dark overlord is like, and it's definitely a scary impression. But the more we get to know Ignifex, the easier it is to see that he's not just darkness, but also something a little more than that. He's capable of kindness and loyalty, he's capable of a lot of good things and basically, it's hard not to feel for him especially after you learn his story. I just could not resist the lure of his dark, mysterious personality!

Racquel: Ignifex is our Beast and what I liked about Ignifex is that he's not exactly a good, saintly righteous guy. He's not your brave hero, who is flawed but good though and through. No, Ignifex is more complex than that! He's more of anti-hero to be honest - a love interest who's a villain. 

Sharon: Ignifex is a magnificent love interest! He's the Bad Guy. He is. There's no getting around that fact. But then we learn more. We get to know him. Things happen. And guess what: everything is not exactly as it might seem. He also has a wicked dry sense of humor that surprised me! I didn't expect to laugh out loud at this book, but I did numerous times.

SHADE

Alexa: It's hard not to want to like Shade because he's simply so nice. But the thing is, nice is all well and good, and it's important in a general sense. But it gets so bland after a while, and so frustrating! I just wanted to shake him. I mean, I seriously liked him a lot, don't get me wrong. But I wanted more from him as well! It was easy for me to figure out his true identity, so that left me out in the cold when it came to something that would be alluring and mysterious.

Racquel: Shade is ya know, a Shadow. He creates a love triangle of sorts, but this is unlike any love triangle you've ever read. I would love to sort through Hodge's brain and try to figure out how she created these super creative and original characters.

Sharon: I was very taken aback by this character at first and wondered how he would come into play, if at all. It definitely created a unique element to the story! It was interesting how he was so opposite of Ignifex, yet like him at the same time. I totally echo Racquel in wanting to dive into Hodge's brain and learn about her character thought process.

STORY

Alexa: What I really liked about Cruel Beauty was that it was such a crazy ride! Sometimes, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that were going on (with my brain working to sort it all out). But overall, it was just fun to come along for the ride. I think my favorite part of the entire story is how Hodge manages to turn the complex natures of her characters (good side versus bad side) into an integral element. It definitely defines the main plot of this tale, and it's really well-done.


Racquel: UMM HOLY MINDFUCK! So many weird things happen in this book, you will be confused and you won't be able to understand everything. It's okay. It's part of the reading experince. The movie Inception is about "a dream within a dream within a dream." In Cruel Beauty, you have an enchanted house and its a "house within a house within a house". Pretty cool, pretty complicated and pretty amazing. This. Is. One. EPIC. Fantasy.

Sharon: I have NO IDEA where to begin with this story. I mean, the blurb tells you it's Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast. That's what hooked me in the beginning. But where there is truth in that, there is so much more to the story! It's crazy and original and twisty and awesome, basically. Just...don't hurt yourself trying to understand when the crazy starts unraveling. You'll understand in time.

ROMANCE

Alexa: The initial blossoming romance was completely a fail for me, as it was too much too fast and totally unbelievable. But the romance that was born out of time and mutual understanding? It was lovely. I enjoyed it a lot, even when the occasional conflict came into play. There were definitely moments where I indulged in a swoon or two.

Racquel: Nyx is sent as sacrifice but she still tries to kill Ignifex and free the people from the demon. Even when they get romance-y, these characters are unlike any others I've read about, and this story is like nothing I've read, so of course this romance is unique too. 

S: From the premise alone, you know this romance is going to be awesome. I mean, come on. Nyx has spent her LIFE preparing to kill Ignifex. If that's not a setup for an epic romance, I don't know what is. And I'll say this: Hodge totally delivers.

THE BEAUTY & THE BEAST & MYTHOLOGY

Alexa: The basic elements of the Beauty and Beast fairytale are definitely incorporated! It's easy to recognize how the elements of the beast, the beauty and their romance are woven in, and I loved that. It's always hard to write a good Beauty and the Beast inspired story with such fantastical elements, but Hodge managed very well. It was the mythology part that kind of confused me. I mean, I think I had a good understanding of what it was in the end, but it still felt kind of... off, in some way.

Racquel: This is a VERY creative Beauty and the Beast retelling. It will be unlike ANYTHING you've ever read! But it also has a strong mythology theme. I dare say, there's more mythology than Beauty and the Beast. Hodge has a really amazing imagination, as she combined both into one of the most original reads I could ever read.

Sharon: The Beauty and the Beast parallel is rather obvious: Nyx is the beauty who has come to stay in the home of Ignifex, the demon/beast. There are issues regarding outward appearance vs. what is on the inside. But that's really where it ends. There is, however, quite a bit of mythology influence! I honestly wish I knew more mythology, but for the most part, it's just, "Oh, that rings a bell! That happened with that one god in Greek or Roman mythology that one time..." But still. I appreciated the influence, and it brought a unique and interesting side to the story I didn't expect but quite enjoyed.

CLOSING COMMENTS

Alexa: While I didn't fall in love with Cruel Beauty, I enjoyed the author's unique take on the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. It was interesting that she chose to incorporate mythology as well. I enjoyed various elements of the story (*coughs* Nyx and Ignifex *coughs*), but found that the book was just okay.

Racquel: This book is just so creative and unique and, on top of that, the protagonists can pass for antagonists. PLUS, the book will make your head spin all kinds of direction. This Beauty and the Beast retelling is a MAJOR WIN, and I cannot wait to reread so I can experience it all over again. I know I'll enjoy it even more and I already loved it. Also, how awesome is the cover?! I LOVE IT! It will look GORGEOUS on my shelf.

Sharon: This is STILL one of the most gorgeous covers ever. I am completely in love with it. And the best thing? It's actually FROM THE BOOK. I can still remember the scene. It just makes me really happy when that happens. Anyway. Cruel Beauty is a book that will confuse you, make you think, make you swoon, and basically just make you love it.

Overall, Cruel Beauty elicited different reactions from us! While I found it unique and enjoyed it tremendously, it didn't become a favorite like I'd hoped. But it's plain to see that Racquel and Sharon really liked it -- and hopefully you will too!

4 comments:

  1. I loved seeing all of your reactions together! The house was totally my favorite part about the book. It was SO interesting and definitely and interesting take on Beauty and the Beast! It was definitely complicated but so cool!

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  2. Nyx was interesting, wasn't she! I have to admit, she frustrated me at times, but I did really like how complex her character was. It's nice to see someone who realistic flaws! I found parts of it quite overwhelming and confusing too, but I did like the obvious creativity behind a lot of the concepts. It's certainly a book that stands out. :) Great joint review, ladies!

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  3. Ohh awesome post! Loved reading what each of you thought. I've been anticipating this one, since obviously, i'm all for anything beauty and the beast. this seems like a really interesting take...i originally didn't know about the mythology. can't wait to read it for myself. :)

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  4. Love that you are doing a joint review of this one. It was a very strange book, but one I still can't stop thinking about.

    "I like that she's not this perfect pristine princess, but that she's a complex, conflicted character." YES. I love that Nyx was not perfect and flawless, and actually really cruel, but in an understandable way. She was unique and interesting that way.

    Like you said, Ignifex is a wonderful love interest. Shade on the other hand, creeped me out. And "holy mindfuck" is the best way to describe this story because I still don't know what to think of it. And I agree with Alexa when I say that while Cruel Beauty is no favorite of mine, it was definitely unique, and I admire the author for it.

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