Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

"Demons are made of shadow. Don't look at the shadows too long or a demon might look back..."

This cover, this is a gorgeous cover. Just look at the pretty.


In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a young woman named Nyx is married off to an evil, demonic man. The Gentle Lord makes bargains. For the price of two daughters, one was promised as a future wife. In spite of her outward appearance, Nyx is resentful that she was chosen to sacrifice her freedom and ultimately her life.

She was chosen because she resembles their father. Astraia, her twin, resembles their mother, who died giving birth to them. By punishing Nyx, he is symbolically punishing himself for the bargain that led to his wife's death and for sexing up his dead wife's sister.

The plan is for Nyx to give into her husband's, um..."marital desires." Then she must find the four elemental hearts in his palace. She was trained in an elemental magic that will allow her to shut down the hearts. Once all four hearts are destroyed, she will be able to kill the Gentle Lord and finally free her people from his bargains, though she will most likely die in the process.

After a lovely wedding where Nyx calls her aunt out on having the sex with her dad, tells her sister how she really feels, and marries a rock (Symbolizing her husband), she arrives at the castle. There are many surprises awaiting her. The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, doesn't immediately ravage her. He turns out to be pretty evil, but not such a bad guy. I really loved him, but I'm always a fan of the bad ones.

Living with Ignifex involves a lot of games. Nyx is given a key that opens a select number of doors. She uses them to explore and search for the hearts while he is indisposed at night. She is also given the chance to guess his true name every night. If she guesses correctly, Ignifex will let her go. If she is wrong, he will kill her.

There is also the issue of his servant, a shadow called Shade. Ignifex must retreat from the darkness every night. At the same time, Shade is insubstantial in the day and becomes solid at night. Nyx trusts Shade, even starts to fall in love with him.

Nyx spends most of the book wanting to kill Ignifex. He is evil, making bargains and twisting them around to hurt people. Ignifex argues that the people are aware that the bargains come with a great price, they just don't care. Personally, I think he has a point, but Nyx is firmly in the "my husband is evil" camp. What she doesn't see until later in the book is that they share a dark side. Nyx has a part of her that doesn't want to be self-sacrificing, that part that destroyed her sister on what was probably the last time she will ever see her. Ignifex has secrets that even he doesn't know. Together they might be a perfect match.

I really liked the story here. The fairy tale elements were fantastic, and as the story continues it becomes even better. Unfortunately, one of the major plot elements was glaringly obvious. It was frustrating that Nyx was so unaware, to the point that I was yelling at her. It kept the book from being a complete 5 stars, but it was still really good. Again, I really loved Ignifex. He was funny and kind of evil, and deserves to be part of my YA Boyfriends club.

I received my copy of Cruel Beauty from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It's available for purchase now.

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