Published: January 28, 2014
Balzer + Bray
Hardcover, 342 pages
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. --GoodReads
Summary Rosie-style- From what I remember, a father makes a deal with a demon prince, and it all goes horribly wrong. With demons, you gotta remember to choose your words very carefully. At the time, his wife, pregnant, was very sick, and he wished that his twin girls would come out healthy and happy. However, he forgot to wish for his wife's health, and she ends up dying. There's a catch, though. The father sealed away the fate for one of his daughters, Nyx, who is fated to marry this demon prince, Ignifex. She's super bitter about this and tries not to hate her twin sister, who got the better part of the bargain. Her sister, on the other hand, receives all the love and attention from daddy, while Nix receives the "heroic" speech stuff. She gets the "Oh it's your duty to kill the demon prince and blah blah" and is reminded everyday of her terrible fate.
So she goes and marries the demon prince, right? Except he's not exactly what she expects. No matter how many times she [pathetically] tries to kill him, she never succeeds, and every time he brushes her off like a bug. He's very compliant and has quite a humorous approach to his situation. Apparently, being a supreme ruler with awesome powers becomes very boring, so much to the point of marrying a woman who YOU KNOW wants to kill you. The demon prince, master of all deals, makes Nyx a bargain. If she can guess his true identity, she will be set free, no questions asked. BUT, if she guesses wrong, he will turn her into stone, and she will forever reside in his haunted castle unable to do anything but be aware of her surroundings. So as a living result of a bargain gone wrong, she opts for the other route and explores his castle for ways to kill him and escape.
So the whole book is about her relationship with her sister (Nyx struggles especially with her feelings about her sister. Her feelings of love and hatred battle throughout the book) , her father (who she yearns to receive approval from), her aunt (who shacks up with Nyx's father), and Ignifex (to whom she can't resist her carnal attraction!!! ooOOOoo ♥♥♥) Oh, and did I mention his Shadow? She falls in love with his Shadow, a mirror image of Ignifiex, a seemingly more human side of him, but possibly another trapped man?
Characters: Alright, now that the summary stuff is done, lemme tell you MY impressions of the characters.
Nyx- So she lives there for a coupla years and cannot do jack****. She stinks as an assassin, and for a majority of the book (she narrates it, she's the POV) she just complains about her situation and ponders what she can do to possibly escape it. She worries over things she can't control, and she hates herself for being attracted to Ignifex. Also, she is so indecisive!!! Her feelings about her family change from chapter to chapter - I swear - and her love from Shadow to Ignifex changes every time one of them kisses her. Or maybe from page to page. At least it feels like that...you try to root for her, but she changes her mind way too much.
Ignifex- Ok, so he's super badass, and pretty funny when needs to be. He puts up with a failure of an assassin wife. He's a thumbs-up in my book.
Shadow- Um, is it just me, or is cheating on your demon husband with his shadow kinda WRONG??
Father- 5 Star jerk. Has sex with his dead wife's sister. Feels no remorse for what he's done, inadvertently killing his sick pregnant wife while selling the soul of his oldest daughter to the demon lord, all the while telling her its her duty to save the city, AND giving all his affection to his other clueless daughter.
Astraia- Nyx's twin sister who gets the better part of the deal. Nyx says some pretty crappy things to her before going off to marry the prince...It's not really Astraia's fault - in fact, it's her father's fault for it all happening, yet Nyx despises her sister for a good part of the novel. But then loves her sister. But then hates her. She actually is pretty badass though...
Plot- Sooo, the city they all live in is taken over by some sort of dark force/demons, and is plucked away from the normal world. Um. The demon prince controls the demons, which everybody fears because once you see a demon, you're pretty much down for the count, aka DEAD. They live in a world where it's similar to Earth, but no really. They have a fake sun and such... it's like they're all living inside the pages of a book. Or at least that's how I imagined it. It really gets quite confusing how everything is explained.
The author tries to make a mish-mash between Beauty and the Beast and Greek Mythology, but it's just kind of a warble between the two. I can see how some aspects of Beauty and the Beast play into it - the living house - and how Greek Mythology plays into it, since Nyx's family worships Greek Gods... but that's pretty much it. Hodge kind of just goes on her own path and creates a story that hits you from out of nowhere. This book will not be what you will expect....but in a semi-good way I guess?
BTW - the pace is kind of slow, but it really doesn't feel that way. Unless you hate reading about indecisive POVs - now that could go really slowly. Not to spoil it, but it does end kind of weirdly. It takes a turn that you really don't expect... deus ex machina?
Overall- OK..... uh. If you like mish-mashing of stories you already know and don't mind indecisive MCs, then this is the book for you! One thing I really liked was the emotional progression of the relationship between Ignifex and Nyx. It wasn't supahfast like some YA novels, but was instead very realistic. The way the background info explained was a little shakey and a bit confusing. SO DON'T SKIM.
Happy Reading, folks!