Series: Cruel Beauty Universe # 1
Published by Balzer + Bray on January 28, 2014
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.
There were several times during Cruel Beauty when I felt hopelessly confused. I know very little about the tale of Beauty and the Beast, and also woven into this fairy-tale retelling was a good deal of Greek mythology and the supernatural. But even when I was left scratching my head and trying to figure out what I’d missed, I was captivated by this story. Hodge tried to cover a great deal of territory in Cruel Beauty, and she did it wonderfully.
For all of her nearly seventeen years, Nyx was raised with the knowledge that she had one mission life: she would marry Ignifex, a 900 year old demon lord, on her seventeenth birthday. Before Nxy and her twin sister were conceived. their father struck a disastrous deal with Ignifex. His wife was desperate for children, and he went to Ignifex for help. Ignifex granted the wish in exchange for a very high price, one unknown that was at the time. Nyx’s mother would give birth, but she would lose her own life. Nyx not only had to marry this monster, but she was tasked with murdering him to avenge her mother’s death and to save the other people of Arcadia from the evil demon lord.
This burden weighs heavily on Nyx, and she has the added knowledge that she is the throwaway daughter. While her sister receives all of the affection of their father, he keeps Nyx at arm’s length, treating her as little more than a bothersome employee. Nyx badly wants her father’s love, and she resents her sister who sails through life with a smile. When Nyx, with all of her insecurities, is shipped off to become Ignifex’s wife, she is prepared to meet a man who embodies evil. Of course, the reality is a bit different. He’s spectacular-looking, and despite all of the horrible things he has done. he treats Nyx with kindness. Yes, he frequently lets her know that her life is imperil, but at least he’s humorous about it.
Nyx isn’t one to take any of this without a fight, and she prowls around Ignifex’s mansion, determined to learn his secrets. And this home has so many secrets, it’s practically a character unto itself. As Nyx grows closer to Ignifex, she begins to question her mission. Can she really murder her husband? Should her loyalty lie with her family, her husband, or perhaps, with herself? I loved to watch Nyx struggle with this, and she grew as a character as she fought to assert herself. The ending of this story is one of my favorites in quite some time. It’s full of surprises and revelations, and even though Nyx’s actions were unpredictable (to me, anyway), they were true to the character she had become.