Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge + Giveaway

15 January, 2014 Giveaways, Reviews 93 comments

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge + GiveawayCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Series: Standalone
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28th 2014
Format: ARC
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
GoodreadsGood BooksAmazon
four-half-stars
Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.

Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

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

Beauty and the Beast retellings evoke a sort of Pavlovian response in me. I hear of them, I read them. Totally basic response to stimuli. This sometimes works out really well and sometimes not so well.

Cruel Beauty is one of the times it worked out really, really well.

What a unique story this is. Seriously I didn’t think I could be surprised by a Beauty and the Beast anymore. I kind of liked the comforting sameness of them all, like a worn in hoodie you snuggle up in when you feel crappy. This book is not like that in the slightest. It’s a tough book to review. It holds you at arm’s length for a good chunk until you suddenly realize that you’re into it and now that you think of it, you’ve been into it for awhile and you’re not entirely sure when that happened.

This book is not going to be for everyone, pretty much every character is an asshole. I actually found everyone’s unpleasantness refreshing. In a land full of varying degrees of bad guys, you don’t have to worry about shipping the pure, fluffy bunny with the big, bad wolf. Everyone’s a wolf and you can settle in and enjoy.

The plot starts off extremely slow, Hodge does some pretty heavy info-dumping in the first couple of chapters. It was a tad overwhelming but the Greek mythology infused history was a fascinating take on fantastical world-building and kept me intrigued.

It helps that the writing is gorgeous. It’s dark and poetic without veering into purple. It makes the story feel lush. This isn’t the kind of book you’re going to breeze through, the complexity of the plot requires sorting-out activity on the part of your brain, but I enjoyed taking my time and picking my way through it.

Ultimately, Beauty and the Beast is a love story, so underneath the cranky pants all of the characters put on in the morning, they are wearing their Underpants of Love. But HOLD UP. What’s this? Cheerfully continuing on her way, casually turning typical YA tropes on their heads, Hodge throws in a unicorn, the likes of which I never thought I’d see: an enjoyable, completely unconventional triangle of luuuurve.

To understand how huge this is, you should know that I generally detest love triangles. While I can theoretically appreciate the character building device a properly applied triangle can be, at best they leave me tearing out my hair in frustration because I can’t settle into my ship in peace and at worst making me want to light puppies on fire because I can’t take the angst a moment longer and this seems like a healthy channel for my aggression. (I would never light a real puppy on fire. Why do I feel like I have to say that?)

Nyx, our intrepid and thoroughly prickly heroine, finds herself torn between Shade, the brooding, tragic hero who can help her on her quest and Ignifex, the charming, demonic husband she has sworn to destroy. Nyx flip-flops between the love interests (in a way that managed to be realistic as opposed to annoying) and though her ultimate choice of love interest comes off a little abrupt and insta-ish, it works in an extremely satisfying way. I credit the ship, they love each other for the best reasons. *snuggles the ship*

“You deserve all that and more. It made me happy to see you suffer. I would do it all over again if I could.” I realized I was shaking as the words tumbled out of me. “I would do it again and again. Every night I would torment you and laugh. Do you understand? You are never safe with me.” I drew a shuddering breath, trying to will away the sting of tears.

He opened his eyes and stared up at me as if I were the door out of Arcadia and back to the true sky. “That’s what makes you my favorite.” He reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek with his thumb. “Every wicked bit of you.”

Final verdict: Cruel Beauty is spectacular. It’s a weird bundle of magic and mythology wrapped around a bunch of old-hat tropes and a well worn tale that feel completely new in Hodge’s hands. If you’re looking for a darkly beautiful, twisted fairytale, give this one a shot.

 

Giveaway

1 hardcover copy of Cruel Beauty!

Contest Rules:

  • To enter, please fill out the Raffelcopter form below.
  • We ask that all entrants be at least 13 years or older to enter.
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  • When the winner is chosen, it will be announced here and the winner will be emailed. Please check your email because we are only giving the winner 48 hours to respond! Otherwise another winner will have to be selected.
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Meg Morley

Meg Morley

Co-bloggery at Cuddlebuggery
Meg is an all-around book nerd who just really wants to talk about books, preferably with other people but by herself will do. Find her on Goodreads.
Meg Morley
RT @Bibliodaze: No cover reveals, no book tours, no interviews, no blog space given to a stalker. We as a community can take a stand here. - 4 mins ago
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93 Responses to “Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge + Giveaway”

  1. Danielle D

    Wow. Intially, I was pretty much just interested because of the beautiful cover and the Beauty and the Beast-ness. But after reading your review, I know this is something I need to pick up sooner rather than later! Thank you – the review was so well-written and made the book so much more intriguing than I had previously seen it presented!

  2. Ashley Strader

    I absolutely love the idea of a Beauty and the Beast retelling combined with Greek mythology (one of my favorite topics). This sounds fantastic! Great review!

  3. Shamara

    I love fairytale retelling so of course I’m interested in this book!! Also the cover is gorgeous and I’ve heard so many fantastic things about this book that I’m really looking forward to reading it :)

  4. Becky

    The cover caught my eye immediately. Then when I found out it was a beauty and the beast retelling, I almost died!! That is my absolute favorite fairytale. I can not wait to read it.

  5. Soumi Roy

    The Beauty and Beat retelling, the amazing writing style and gorgeous prose. The idea of falling in love with someone you are about to kill.
    Oh, the cover of course.

  6. cosnmom
    Twitter:

    I think the Beauty and the Beast retelling sounds really intriguing, but I also love reading about strong female protagonists, as well. Your review definitely makes me want to pick this one up! :)

  7. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    I loved this book so much, it’s safe to say it’s going to be in my top 10 favorite books from 2014. Beauty and the beast retellings are always tricky for me, since it’s my favorite tale, but I can’t resist reading them. This book is definitely one of the best I’ve read so far when it comes to a B&B retelling. So dark and haunting, with a powerful writing-style and mythological twist. I loved how ‘evil’ every character is :D
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Top 10 Tuesday 30.My Profile

  8. Anya
    Twitter:

    “I actually found everyone’s unpleasantness refreshing” Yes this! I felt I could really connect to Nyx since I understood her prickly internal thoughts. Those are thoughts that I would think in her situation! The love triangle also worked for me since I guessed the big twist and figured it was heading in that direction >.>
    Anya recently posted…Way of Kings Read-Along {Week 3}My Profile

  9. Amy

    I am excited about this book because of the gorgeous cover, the retelling of beauty and the beast and love the excerpts.

  10. anamaria

    this sounds so interesting, I’ve read one beauty and the beast retelling and thought it was so fun and this sounds way better plus the cover is so pretty, I’m so excited to read it :)

  11. Tammy
    Twitter:

    I’m most interested in this book because it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and for cover-love I have for this book.

  12. Chenise J.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was able to combine both a fairy tale retelling with mythology so I’m extremely excited to see how well things pan out! It’s quite a large endeavour!

  13. Cecilie

    This book sounds so interesting, I can’t wait to read it. Also Beauty and the beast is one of my favorite fairytales :D

  14. Cyn

    “This book is not going to be for everyone, pretty much every character is an asshole. I actually found everyone’s unpleasantness refreshing.” – ha I totally agree. I liked that Nyx was aware she’s not that nice and can get jealous.

    I definitely really enjoyed this book too. The only thing I wish was a bit different was that there was more of build up for the romance, otherwise, I definitely a fan. Great review!
    Cyn recently posted…“Waiting” on Wednesday: Something RealMy Profile

  15. Jenny

    This book sounds so awesome! I’ve been wanting to read it for a while because of the amazing summary and fact that it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast (seriously one of my favourite Disney movies).

  16. Kate Bucklein
    Twitter:

    I swear, every time I read reviews of this book, it sounds better and better. It’s almost like every review stacks on new layers that I need to untangle to get the true meat of what the story is about.

    I can’t wait to read this one. The love triangle scares me off a bit, but the rest…I just want to nom this book. (What?)

  17. Cassi Steenblok

    What a great review! I usually like books when the narrators are not very likable and perfect. I agree it’s refreshing but it can also be realistic. I’m really excited to read this book. Thanks for the review and the giveaway!

  18. Amy Hindle

    I love fairy tale re-tellings! And Graceling is one of my favorite books soooo basically this book has all the best elements!

  19. Eva

    I adore fairy tale retellings and this one sounds very interesting.
    another one on my wishlist.

  20. Manda

    I love Beauty and the Beast retellings. Robin McKinley, obviously, but I also fell in love with Jane Yolen’s version set in the Holocaust – extraordinary parallels. I will have to read this =)

  21. Vivien

    The re-telling bit. Really, I absolutely LOVE re-tellings. They are some of my favorite novels to read. And really so memorable because the originals were hammered into me growing up. I love reading new adaptations.

  22. Nemo @ the Moonlight Library

    What a lovely review Meg! I’m a huge Beauty and the Beast retelling fan – I love the Gothicness of the situation – but I’m always a bit frustrated by the Beauty’s inherent helplessness or passivity. It sounds like Nyx is totally kickass so I’m quite looking forward to this book!

  23. Ina M.

    *salivates* I want that book pretty badly – have been for quite a while now, and your review just cemented that craving! Many thanks for giving us the chance to win a (hardcover! <3 ) copy! ^_^

    • Ina M.

      Ooops! Totally forgot about the reply to your question – well, before reading your review, I’d have said “the fact that it’s a retelling of Beautiy and the Beast” but now it’s also the idea of the heroine being a kick-ass one. I can’t quite get my head around it, but it sounds like a very interesting twist!

  24. Anna F

    I am always intrigued by retellings of classic stories or fairy tales so this is right up my alley!

  25. Darith L.

    I really want to read it! It’s a fairytale retelling, which I’m always gravitating to. :D

  26. Gayatri (Shivani)

    I absolutely love Beauty and Beast retelling and combine it with Greek mythology and I am intrigued to the nth degree. Initially it was just the cover and the blurb that drew me in but a love triangle and ur detailed review has me wanting to read it as soon as I get my hands on it! Thanks for the wonderful review and Giveaway!!
    Gayatri (Shivani) recently posted…House of Night Read-A-LongMy Profile

  27. Kazhy

    I also love everything Beauty and the Beast and that’s what drew me to this book, but I’m glad to hear that it’s a really dark book. I look forward to experiencing this for myself and I’m wondering if I’ll like any of the characters at all lol.
    Kazhy recently posted…Life of a Blogger {2}My Profile

  28. Heather

    I love retellings of fairytale stories. This one sounds most interesting of the beauty and the beast retellings.

  29. Shannelle C.
    Twitter:

    Aaah, I’m so jealous of you, Meg! I really fell in love with the cover, but I was absolutely dying by the time I was finished with that synopsis. I want to read it so badly, but I just can’t find it in any bookstores, and if I can, I’m not allowed to buy. so I shouldn’t be hoping that I win this, but I’m hoping so hard. Squeeee.

    And damn, that excerpt. Dayumn, that was hot. Fanning myself over here, even though it’s the coldest it’s ever been in the Philippines.
    Shannelle C. recently posted…I’m Joining Reread January!My Profile

  30. Diamond
    Twitter:

    Great review! I loved this one too :) I agree it was a. Novels here everyone was a wolf, but that made it all the more refreshing and enjoyable! I also agree it was a toughie to review! I’m still composing my review, it’s taking forever to organize my thoughts.t he longer I wait the more intangible it all feels. *sigh* oh well! I loved the book. So much I can’t complain! Thanks for the giveaway! Would love to see this baby on my shelves. ;)
    Diamond recently posted…Blog Tour Review: Isabella: Braveheart of France by Colin FalconerMy Profile

  31. Catarina

    I do love fairytales and retellings are great, but I do hate love triangles, so this one relly interests me because you thought it great and I loved graceliing so two in one- can only be good :-)

  32. Stacy

    I’m reading this right now, so I skimmed, but I love it I love it I love it! The writing, that initial meeting…I can’t wait to finish it so I can discuss with others! Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite tales, but I also love the inclusion of mythology in this story.
    Stacy recently posted…Laundry Room CabinetsMy Profile

  33. Ning

    I thought I’d like this one too, but it was really disappointing. I went through this one pretty fast, maybe that’s why I didn’t catch some of the deeper and more nuanced part of the story. However, for a story on love, the love part of sorely lacking. She fell in love way too fast with both of the characters, especially the first one. She sees him about twice and bam! It’s I love you and he loves me. As for the second one, I understand she was already there for weeks, but we barely see them interact before they’re in love. To me it felt like a mess, but glad you enjoyed it! But you’re right, definitely not for everyone!

  34. Andrea

    I love the greek mythology and Beauty and the Beast was my favourite book when I was a child, so I can’t wait to read it.

  35. toribg

    Yes! I am all about the “bad” characters. I would much rather have that than perfect, unrealistic characters any day.

  36. Jaime Lester

    It is a Beauty and the Beast retelling! I can’t wait to read it, I really can’t! It sounds so good, and you liked it so that gives me hope that I will enjoy it very much! Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  37. Jenna

    I actually usually end up loving jerkish characters, so that ended up being a selling point for me. Plus, you know, the idea of Beauty-and-the-Beast-meets-Graceling is kind of wizard. Thanks for the giveaway! Either way, I’m going to end up reading this one–your review totally sold me.

  38. Alba

    The story is a re-telling of Beauty and Thee Beast, and while growing up it was one of my favorite stories.

  39. Christine

    Beauty and the Beast was one my favorite fairy tales growing up (I mean, come on, the heroine was a brunette bookworm just like me!), and I tend to love retelling books, so this is a perfect combination for me :)

  40. Catherine S.

    Wow. Now that I’ve read your review, I am definitely adding this book to my list. The retelling story of Beauty and The Beast was the first thing that intrigues me. I’ve always loved that story! Oh and the cover was beautiful. Can’t wait to read the book :D

    Thanks for the giveaway.

  41. Stephanie Grant

    I’m most excited about this book being a retelling of beauty and the beast.

  42. Alex

    This book sounds fabulous. Ridiculously, fabulous like if it was a ice cream sundae it would have all of my favorite things in !

  43. Katrina

    I live for fairytale retellings. I despise love triangles as well but you seem tol ove it as well despite that fact. Must. Read. Thanks for the giveaway!

  44. Natasha Areena

    I love the cover and the fact that she’s supposed to kill him ! Thanks for sharing .

  45. Beauty$theBeast fan

    What most interest me?
    Everything? I mean: Beauty and the Beat, a brave main character, love story, adventures,… Sing me in!!
    I’m going to love this book *.*
    I CAN’T WAIT!!

  46. shani

    I think it’s the fact that lots of reviewers I trust seem to adore it and it seems like a dark, fascinating retelling.

  47. Ellis

    EW TO THAT COVER

    NO TO RETELLINGS

    YOUR REVIEW SUCKS

    THIS BOOK SOUNDS STOOPID

    I SURE DON’T WANT IT

    Wait, what am I doing commenting then?

    *existential crisis*

    Heeeeyyy Megggg. You know I was kidding, right? Right? No? Okay, let me prove it.

    First of all, can we get a HELL YES for the cover designer? Preferably an encore of HELL YESSES. AN …. OF YESSES? (Fill in the suitable noun for maximum effect.)

    Secondly, because this sounds like Kiaran, Barrons, Mac 5.0, Scarlet, Evanjalin, Lirah, Arjuro, Tesadora and Quintana were all locked in one room and this is what they decided their legacy should be. Shipping assholes is LITERALLY the best. (Sorry, I’m still on a Parks and Rec high from your Defy review. Wait. Why am I apologising for this? Let’s fill out these parentheses. *higs*)

    YOU WENT ALL GEORGIA IN YOUR ROMANCE PARAGRAPH. I LUUUURVE YOU SO MUCH.

    Also, because this sounds like a book I need to Gchat you about. Is this a valid reason? I don’t know. But I’d like it to be.

    Aww, look at you snuggling a ship of crankies. You’re snuggling a prickly ship. I love it.

    EVERY WICKED BIT OF YOU. THAT’S IT. I SHIP IT ALREADY.

    (Slightly related note: we might need help. We’ve assembled a harem of quite a few questionable specimen. (Get it? SpeciMEN? (Parenthesis inception (This feels very mathematical (OKAY. THAT WENT TOO FAR. TIME TO BREAK OUT OF THIS CAGE OF SCIENCE SYMBOLS.))))

    Also numéro trois (I probably should say numero tres because I’m supposed to be studying Spanish instead of reading your ridiculously wonderful review but – oh look, I did speak a little Spanish. Day succeed, one says to that.), I’m curious about the language now. Dark and poetic sounds intriguing (and freaking awesome) but whenever someone mentions the writing being gorgeous, I want to see it for myself. I want to see what your brain considers gorgeous, Meg. Well, that, and I love when language adds to the beauty of a story, especially when it’s consistent with said story. Considering that “dark and poetic” is a pretty good summary of what you’ve mentioned in your review, pluuuus that it serves as a fitting extrapolation of the title (look! Fancy words!), it sounds like the writing really captures the book which HALLELUJAH CAN WE GET THAT FOREVER?

    Also, unicorns. Always relevant to mention those.

    I’m 80% sure this comment is going to end up in spam. If that’s the case, LET ME BREAK OUT. HELP ME, KIARAN.

    (Yeah… I definitely need help.)
    Ellis recently posted…Review – SecretMy Profile

    • Ellis

      MEG THE MOST HORRIBLE THING HAPPENED.

      I was thinking about this comment and how I went all out on the parentheses and then I started getting paranoid about if I’d used enough of them to decently close the bracketed information and I DID NOT. WE’RE STILL TRAPPED IN THE EVIL MATH CAGE. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

      So, I remembered because I was thinking of my beeyutiful copy of Cruel Beauty that’s waiting for me at home to be read THIS WEEKEND but I’ve already told you the books > boobs story so we’re good.

      THE MATH PRISON, THOUGH. HOOOORREEEEBLE.

      ) —> the missing bracket; now we can actually break out. PHEW.

  48. Lynn K.
    Twitter:

    I had just finished Entreat Me by Grace Draven (another Beauty and the Beast retelling) when I first came across this. :P The retelling of B&B intrigued me, but it wasn’t until the reviews started rolling out when I decided that I NEEDED to read it. Hurrah for lush writing and believable romance, can’t wait to read this!

  49. Desnica Kumar

    Great review!
    I absolutely love retellings! I think that the fact that Nyx has been training to kill Ignifex makes this a very interesting retelling of Beauty and the Beast and I can’t wait to get a chance to read it! Also i’m curios to see where the greek mythology fits in…
    The cover is beautiful! and I just want to stare at it….
    Thanks for the very generous giveaway!

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