Wednesday, 19 February 2014


Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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 am about to voice an unpopular opinion. I didn't really like this book. Normally, I'd try to convince myself that's actually good. I'd tell myself it means I have superior taste to everyone else or am quirky and individual. This time, I'm too disappointed to convince myself that being different is a good thing. I really, really wanted to like this book. Hell, I wanted to love it, and I was convinced that I would. I've only seen glowing reviews for it, and it's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast except Belle is an assassin who's been training to kill the beast. What's not to love?

The first hundred pages were, to me, excruciatingly boring. I wasn't particularly interested in the world being built, because I didn't have any reason to be, and I didn't feel immersed in it. All this information is dumped on you - the history of Nyx's country, the workings of the hermetic arts, her personal history. So. Much. Information. And I didn't care about any of it, really. And you can tell me how important it's going to be later on, but honestly, I didn't think it mattered that much. You could have cut eighty-odd pages from the beginning and had no trouble whatsoever following the story. A story I didn't find all that engaging. Now, I'm in the minority there, judging by the reviews I've read, but I wasn't interested in the outcome. I wasn't invested in the plot. I did spend a lot of time wondering if I was going to get a proper ending or if this book was just the start of a series, but other than that I had no real interest in the ending.

I think the main problem, though, is that I never warmed to any of the characters. Nyx isn't especially likeable - or interesting, but I think the former was deliberate - and I usually like unlikeable characters. Just see any of my reviews for Courtney Summers' books. I don't have very much to say about Nyx, but Ignifiex was the real disappointment to me. He was flat and boring and kind of pointless. I'm going to say spoiler-y things now, so watch out for that. There's no villain here, no real conflict. I was desperately hoping that the whole Ignifex-is-a-prisoner-too-thing was going to be a ruse, that he'd made it up to gain Nyx's trust, but no. I was disappointed there, too. And as for the two of them together...I didn't get any sense of spark or chemistry between them. I didn't feel anything about them, and I didn't think they felt anything either. Their romance was just kind of lifeless and tottering along. 

So, yeah. Didn't like it. I did really want to, though, and I do wonder if it just couldn't hold up under the weight of my expectations. It claimed to have all the elements I didn't even know I was looking for in a fantasy book - Beauty and the Beast, a sassy heroine, an enigmatic villain, magic and Greek mythology - but it was just quite meh. There is some lovely writing in it, Hodge does have a great way with words, but I felt the plot and characters were lacking. I won't rule out reading anything of Hodge's in the future, but if this series continues then I'm not sure I'll be there with it.

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