Book Review: Cruel Beauty

Author: Rosamund Hodgecruelbeauty
Publisher: Harper Collins
Date Published: January 28, 2014
Number of Pages: 352

What’s It About?

Bargained away at birth by her father Nyx was promised to the evil ruler of her kingdom, The Gentle Lord, as is his future wife when she came of age. Raised to believe she is the only hope for the freedom of her people, Nyx knows that saving her kingdom means sacrificing herself. Despite this she resents her family – the father who sold her freedom, the little sister who is favoured, and an aunt engaged in a secret affair with her dead sisters husband.

On the day of her wedding Nyx leaves the only home she’s known to live with a man she’s never met, with the sole purpose to seduce and then destroy him. Only she soon discovers there’s more to The Dark Lord than she could have ever imagined. Desperate to free her people yet drawn to a man she’s supposed to despise Nyx must choose between her kingdom or her own happiness.

The Review

Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge’s first book, is an adaptation of the classic Beauty and the Beast mixed with Greek mythology. Which sounds both intriguing and exciting. However it fails to hit the mark. Though an interesting take on the Beauty and the Beast story it’s more inspired by the tale as opposed to a straight adaptation. Though there are elements reminiscent of  the classic tale – a beautiful woman imprisoned by a “monster” who names her mistress of his home, an enchanted castle, a heroine who believes her jailer to also be imprisoning a handsome woeful prince. In Hodge’s version the monster is not covered in fur, in fact his description is reminiscent of the Disney film’s main antagonist Gaston. But likeable. Which is probably the saving grace for this book.

It’s not that Cruel Beauty is terrible, because it’s not. It’s a quick, easy read that is relatively entertaining, it just lacks substance. The characters are there but almost caricatures of what they could have been. Main character Nyx lacks all of the charm and, well seemingly inner beauty that Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle was overflowing with. Her father, sister and stepmother come off as nothing more than stock characters, with Nyx’s sister Astraia falling into the cliché of “not so innocent-innocent.”

Interestingly enough the most exciting character is the bad guy – Ignifex – who really doesn’t seem all that bad. He offers an in-depth explanation as to why he does what he does, proves that the bad that befalls those who make deals with him would’ve happened regardless of role in the matter yet despite this explanation Nyx still finds a way to condescend and judge him.

Ignifex is complex, showing a vulnerability that you wouldn’t expect in a books antagonist. He is by far the best developed character in the story – his back story was more interesting than the actual story at hand.

Further adding to the mediocrity of Cruel Beauty is Hodge’s writing which, at times, is reaching. She fluctuates between modern, every day language and an attempt to cast her characters in a medieval type setting by use of flowery, purple language, which isn’t always a bad thing but in this case, it definitely is. It’s jarring, and, well, a little lame. There’s also an attempt at achieving a certain poeticism in her prose. Rather than elevating the quality of the writing it only helps to further limit it.

The book is also excessively long. You get to a point that you think is the ending, but it turns out it most definitely is not. The false ending doesn’t work and the real ending is a let down because after everything there’s still no promise of a happy ending. It’s really unsatisfying. Some stories are not meant to have a happy ending but it feels like the story breaks with convention just to be different, not because it’s what’s right for the story.

Cruel Beauty, Rosamund Hodge’s first foray into YA fantasy though inspired by Beauty and the Beast fails to compete with the classic tale.  2/5