Thursday, January 16, 2014

Early Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

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.

~A copy was provided by Balzer & Bray for review~

After reading this, I have to say that this is probably the best book I'll read this entire month. This is the type of book I enjoy reading. A book containing characters with love-hate relationships, swords, a cheeky demon lord, creepy ghost dudes, a meanie of a father, and a story that could possibly be better than the original version. I didn't see how this novel was anything at all like Graceling, but the Beauty & The Beast aspect was certainly there. What made me like this book so much though was not that this book was like the famous Disney movie, but because it wasn't. I might have made the retelling connection even if it wasn't pointed out in the blurb, but the relationship doesn't just jump out at you. About 75-85% - if not more - of this book is unconditionally original, and that, more than anything (...besides the romance) is what made me love this book.

My favorite character has to be the cheeky demon lord I mentioned earlier. He's called the Gentle Lord formally, and I fell in love with him the first time I, and Nyx, I guess, laid our eyes on him. I was surprised that he wasn't a great, hairy beast like in the movie, but a human. Besides his cat-like eyes, that is. I love him so, soooo much! No doubt about it, he is my book boyfriend of the month:D And before you ask, yes he was much more romantic and adorable and bold and passionate that the original dude ever was.  Rosamund Hodge, your greatest gift to this world was in creating him. I wonder where I can find me someone like him *grins*.

Now Nyx, she reminded me a bit of myself. There's the sibling adored by the father, the hard work, the kind-of malicious heart...we were almost the same. I'm hoping I'm smarter than her though, because she just went and followed her oaths blindly, with too much weakness, without thinking about the truth or consequences beforehand. Over-thinking things is my main weakness, but I think in Nyx's case it could have come in handy. What I loved most about Nyx though is that instead of playing the simpering, devious maiden her father and aunt wanted her to play whenever she was around her husband, Nyx was candid and straightforward, and constantly warned the Gentle Lord not to trust her too much. It was also great, though sad, that she was willing to sacrifice herself for her land and people, but I still can't believe that she was manipulated by her entire family even after she learned the truth.

The person I hated most in this book? It has to be about a tie between Shade, the Gentle Lord's "shadow", and Nyx's twin sister, Astraia. I hated Shade from almost the very beginning. I'm not sure why, exactly, but he just creeped me out. I liked him better when he was just a shadow without a face. Now just because I didn't like him doesn't mean he's a bad guy, or that Nyx didn't find him...desirable *gags*, or even that he didn't get a happy ending. Let's just say I'm glad he's not a real person/idiot/stupidhead. Weakazoid is another great adjective to describe him. And Astraia, she was too smiley and cheery. I'm not the best sister ever, but even I wouldn't be grinning from ear to ear if my brother was sent to save the world (Heaven forbid...he'd probably end the world by accident). And I know this'll make no sense to you, but I hated Astraia in both lives. Ugh, those two are the creepiest characters ever.

So yes, this is the best book I've read so far in 2014. It had he perfect amount of magic, love, and intrigue. Everything was opaque, and the ending was not at all predictable. And while we're on that topic, this book would have been the very definition of what a book should be...if only it didn't have the ending it did. I absolutely despised the ending, and while it wasn't too terrible, it wasn't the finale I would have written, and neither was it the movie ending. In truth though, I think I may have been secretly desiring the movie ending...

Here's a little sneak peak at my fave two people;) And trust me, this isn't even close to the best scene.

Ignifex kept his word: he took me only a few hours later, when the sun glinted high in the sky and the parchment around it glowed a honey-gold that put its gilt rays to shame.
“Get whatever you want for an offering,” he said, so I hunted through the house until I found candles and a bottle of wine. Ignifex took out an ivory key and unlocked a white door that I had never seen before. On the other side of it lay the graveyard; I went through it, and found myself stepping in the main gate. Before us a jumble of tombstones sprouted up in ragged rows, from plain little slab markers to statues and miniature shrines twice as large as a man.
Mother’s tomb lay near the back of the graveyard. I could have walked there in my sleep, and it did feel like I was dreaming, to stride there in clean daylight with the Gentle Lord at my side. The air was crisp, and the wind blew in ragged gusts that smelled faintly of smoke; the red-gold leaves swirled about us and crackled under our boots. Above us, the holes in the sky yawned like open tombs, but I was growing used to them. Instead, my back crawled with the fear that human eyes could see us, that all the world was waiting behind the tombstones to leap out and condemn me for my impiety. I looked around again and again, but though I saw no one, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched.
My mother’s was not the largest of the tombs, but it was elegant: a stone canopy sheltered a marble bed on which lay a statue of a shrouded woman, so delicately carved that you could see the lines of her face through the gauzy folds. On the side of the bed was carved “THISBE TRISKELION,” and below it the verse—in Latin, since Father was such a scholar—“IN NIHIL AB NIHILO QUAM CITO RECIDIMUS.”
From nothing into nothing how swiftly we return.
I knelt and set out the candles. Ignifex, standing beside me, lit them with a snap of his fingers, then stuck his hands in the pockets of his long dark coat. For the first time that I had known him, there was something stiff and awkward in the way he stood.
“You look like a scarecrow,” I said. “Kneel down and give me the corkscrew.”
He knelt and handed me the corkscrew; after a few moments of cold-fingered struggle, I got the bottle open. I poured a trickle of the dark wine onto the earth before the tomb.
“Blessings and honor belong to the dead,” I whispered. The ritual words were comforting. “We bless you, we honor you, we remember your name.”
I lifted the bottle and gulped a mouthful of wine. It was sweet and spicy, like the autumn wind, and it burned its way down my throat. Then I held out the bottle to Ignifex.
He looked at me blankly.
“We drink as well,” I said. “It’s part of the ceremony.”
His gaze waved. “I . . .”
“You will honor my mother or I will break this bottle over your head.”
Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Releases January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling, YA

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