Friday, May 8, 2015

Review: Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Cruel Beauty Universe #1
Published January 28th 2014 by Balzer + Bray

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.
*An ARC was provided by Balzer + Bray in exchange for an honest review.*

Cruel Beauty is another one of those books that I got to quite late in the game.  It's not that I wasn't eager to read it right from the start, but for whatever reason, it perpetually stayed in the to-read pile until a month ago, when I finally took the plunge. It seems like most of my trusted bookish friends loved it, and  I was very much expecting to bask in it's apparent awesomeness.  Unfortunately, my feelings for it are more of a jumbled mess of good things and bad things. Much like this book. Caution: black sheep review straight ahead. If you love this book like air, this review might not be for you.

I should start by saying that there were many things that I did enjoy about Cruel Beauty.  There was a gorgeous mix of mythological elements woven into the classic Beauty and the Beast tale, which inspired this story.  I adore mythology but I wasn't expecting to find it here, which was a pleasant surprise. That fact, coupled with the glorious setting that is Ignifex's (the Beast's) castle -with its winding staircases, changing hallways and rooms filled with mystery - well it seemed like everything was headed in the  right direction here. I could literally have spent the entire book exploring the castle at length and never have gotten bored. I'm pretty sure that the castle itself was what kept me turning the pages compulsively at first...

The characters were...unique to say the least, and I enjoyed them for the most part.  Despite the main character Nyx being quite difficult to love, I still found myself mostly sympathetic to her situation. That isn't to say that her constant changes in disposition weren't frustrating as hell sometimes, but I could see how her family issues, and you know, the fact that her father basically sold her into marrying a monster might affect her more personable side.  It's true though that Nyx never seemed to be able to make up her mind on what exactly her purpose and motivations were. One minute she had the killer instincts of an assassin and in the next second, she turned into a hopeless romantic, desperately clinging to anyone who'd show her any kind of affection. o.O  The entire thing was off-putting at times, but it didn't really affect the flow of the story.

Ignifex was definitely a highlight for me, and easily my favorite character of the lot.  His enigmatic persona, inherent sarcasm, bad boy persona and his situation made him a mystery I was bound to unravel. The only bummer was that I guessed the truth about him and Shade at the very start, so when it came down to the big reveal, I was pretty flabbergasted that Nyx hadn't guessed it sooner.  I mean, wasn't it fairly obvious to everyone else who read this, or did I just get lucky with my hunch? To top things off, when it came time for the big change for both Ignifex and Shade, I just wasn't on board. I didn't want it to go down like that. I liked Ignifex just fine the way he was, thank you very much and I would have much prefered for him to be redeemed on his own than to meld with Shade. And then, for that to trigger a big: 'oooh the previous world was just a memory' trope? Ugh. o_O  And speaking of Shade, while he was intriguing and mysterious in his own right, the insta-love declared by him and Nyx didn't especially sit well with me.  After sharing one kiss, Nyx admits to the fact that she knows he already loves her and that she probably loves him too. Whaaa?!

My other issues with Cruel Beauty lie mostly with the plot and it's resolution. Everything seemed unnecessarily complicated at best and a hot mess of detours and tangents at worst. The world-building was very good when it came to Ignifex's castle and it's many enchanted rooms but unfortunately, that didn't quite transfer to the mechanics of the actual world or it's magical system. To fully commit to the fantasy elements that were without a doubt the basis of this book, I needed to understand all the elements that made everything possible. Yes, I needed to understand ALL.THE.THINGS.  Like, what exactly was The Sundering? Who were The Kindly Ones specifically and how did they come to be and rule?  And for that matter, how did they come to 'not-be'?  How do Ignifex's powers work, really? The basic construction of this world and it's inner workings simply weren't explained in enough detail for my liking.

If I'm honest, I enjoyed the first half of Cruel Beauty a hell of a lot more than I did the second half. There was more suspense and uncertainty at first, but then it all seemed to dissolve into a star-crossed romance in the second half. While I enjoyed the romantic aspects of the book well enough (namely, Nyx and Ignifex), I could have done without the sort of love-triangle angle and what I felt was blatant insta-love for Nyx and Shade. I could go on about the plot being weighed down by long descriptions at seemingly every turn, but I digress. On the one hand, I enjoyed some parts of this book well enough, but other parts of it really frustrated me.  I give it a smack-dab-in-the-middle rating to reflect my inner conflict:

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

32 comments:

  1. Sorry this one wasn't for you Micheline! I loved it, but I agree that it was a really unique take on Beauty and the Beast and the issues you highlighted are definitely things that won't work for everyone. I think this was a love it or hate it kind of read:) Have you tried Crimson Bound? I haven't yet but I'm hoping to it soon:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can't win 'em all eh Jenny^^ From what I've seen in the reviews I've read for it, you're right: people either LOVE it or HATE it. I haven't tried Crimson Bound yet but I'll still give it a go. I'll be looking out for your thoughts on it too :) Thanks for stopping by! xx

      Delete
  2. I have oodles of books that I have always been eager to read, but haven't gotten too. It is the dilemma that every bookish girl faces. It sounds like this book was all over. Here's hoping that your next read is a win.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It totally is the dilemma us bookish people face on a day to day basis^^ So many people loved this book but yeah it was pretty much all over the place for me. Thanks Suzi Q!

      Delete
  3. Sorry this was a dud read for you :(. It's like a roll of dice when you read hyped up books, you might love it or you might hate it, it's frustrating.

    I think why I liked Nyx as much as I did was because she was difficult to love. It just seemed like a nice change of pace compared to all the other books were the Main character almost has no faults. But, yeah, I agree, Her change in personalities throughout this book was really off-putting. I think I would have been more okay with it if it wasn't like a complete change in person; if she just had some doubts here and there instead of changing so much.

    Happy May reading :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh don't get me wrong, I've come to love many unlikeable characters and you're 100% right: it makes them different which is part of the draw. It was more her constant back and forth between cold-blooded assassin and hopeless romantic that rubbed me the wrong way. And I agree with you, if she'd had more doubts throughout instead of going hot and cold, it would have made more sense to me. Thanks for the lovely comment Kimberly!! ♥

      Delete
  4. Holy crap, we had almost the EXACT same thoughts about this book, it'd be scary if it weren't so awesome. I AGREE WITH LITERALLY EVERYTHING. 100% COSIGNED.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's SERIOUSLY AWESOME NIKKI^^ WE'RE NOT ALONE *hug*
      Oh and it totally is scary. But mostly awesome XD

      Delete
  5. I want to say that either Ally or Melissa has this out from the library right now, but my memory may just be faulty again, lol. If one of them does, I'll be curious to see what they think because I could see myself encountering the same issues with it that you had. I also need to know how *everything* works, and it drives me crazy when terms are thrown around but I'm grasping to pull their meanings together from a vague hint here and a vague hint there. I think I'll stick with ACOTAR for Beauty and the Beast retellings, hehe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm actually really curious to see what they think of it too now - I thought I was like the last blogger alive to not have read this one yet. So many people loved this one though, they might have better luck with it than I had! Sticking with ACOTAR is a plan I can get behind 100% though ;D

      Delete
  6. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I felt pretty much the exact same way about this book. I've been a lonely black sheep up until now. One of the problems I had was with the characters. I didn't like them. They were horrible, shallow people. I just didn't care if anything worked out for them. I gave it 3 stars, but mostly because of the mythology, setting and writing. It did go downhill about halfway through. I'm going to give her new book, Crimson Bound a chance, but if I have similar issues, I'm parting ways with the author.

    Michelle @ Michelle's Minions

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG! You are NO LONGER the lonely black sheep Michelle, now there's two of us^^ The characters aren't especially likeable you right, but I think I could have dealt with them a bit better if the world had been built up to my liking. Yeah the first half at least had me intrigued but beyond that I lost all the interest that had been building up. I'm going to give Crimson Bound a chance too - hopefully we'll have better luck with that one.

      Delete
  7. I know how you feel about being the black sheep on certain books. It's true the majority of reviews I've seen for this book have been positive, but I think your review was great too for providing a different take. I'm going to take the plunge on this one myself one of these days, curious what I'll think of it now :)

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always feel that way too Mogsy! When you only see positive reviews for a book sometimes it can be off-putting and seeing at least one review diverging from that helps to give perspective. I'm really curious to see how you'll make out with it, we'll have to compare notes when you do! :)

      Delete
  8. I liked this book a little more than you, but not much more! I loved the audio version because the narrator had this rich, beautiful voice and I think that made me like the book more than I would have if I'd read it in print.

    I agree about the whole instalove thing and not being too happy with the whole Shade/Ignifex thing. I wasn't a huge fan of the romance, but I did like the idea of the Kindly Ones and the Sundering. It sounded like vaguely familiar creatures from Greek mythology so I wasn't too annoyed with the fact that they weren't well explained.

    - Kritika @ Snowflakes & Spider silk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can totally see a wonderful narrator making a big difference that way - they really can make or break the experience. I liked the idea of the Kindly Ones and the Sundering too but I felt like they were almost there for no reason. I would have needed just a bit more background on them WITHIN this world. But yeah, the romance and the Ignifex/Shade thing wasn't my favorite o_O

      Delete
  9. I did really enjoy this one but can definitely, definitely agree with you about the issues. Because I loved the writing and fantasy elements and romance I was a bit more tolerant but this one is by no means perfect. Sorry you didn't like it more :c Are you going to try her newest book?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Alise! I WANTED to love the writing and fantasy elements but I just needed more world-building to appreciate the fantasy world. The lack of it really put me off...I am planning on giving Crimson Bound a go, hopefully I'll have better luck with that one *crosses fingers*

      Delete
  10. Oh no, I'm so disappointed to see that this didn't go better for you. :( There are things that confused me too, such as the ending, but I just LOVED the writing, romance and heroine :D Great honest review though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Lola^^ Yeah I was pretty disappointed too and you're right the ending was confusing and too neatly resolved for my taste :(

      Delete
  11. It took me a year to finally pick this one up, and I have to agree with you. The writing and the imagery was just lovely. I enjoyed the personal conflict by the MC - doubting and searching for love.

    But you really hit the nail on the head when you said everything was more complicated than needed. Are you going to pick up her next novel? It seems that if the first one wasn't your cup of tea, the second one will probably be more to your taste.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am planning on giving Crimson Bound a go nonetheless Lyn, hopefully that one will work out for me. I'm glad to see that you think I'll have better luck with it too^^ Thanks for the input :)

      Delete
  12. Uh oh, Micheline! I have this one on my TBR, but for some reason, I haven't read it yet. Now, I'm thinking maybe there's a reason why it's been fighting for survival among all my other books...
    I hope your next read was much, much better!
    Have a wonderful week ahead and happy reading.

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I'm thinking the same thing now Lexxie - it seems like there was a good reason I hadn't gotten to this one yet. Oh well! If it ever does survive as your pick, I hope you have better luck with it :)

      Delete
  13. Aww, this sucks you couldn't love this one. I wasn't the biggest fan of the love triangle either, it could have worked better without it. I heard the author left it as an open ending because she might write it into a sequel later. MAYBE. Atleast you gave it a try :) I don't think you'll like Crimson Bound much either because they're almost replicas. <3 Benish | Feminist Reflections

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah the absence of the triangle certainly would have helped. That and if the world-building had been up to my liking. I'll still give Crimson Bound a chance, but I'll keep your advice in mind^^ Thanks Benish ♥

      Delete
  14. This is a great review! I read (listened to) this book last year when I just started blogging and I think I've grown to be more harsh with my ratings since :) I liked the castle, too, and I actually liked Nyx very much. Most of all, I liked what Hodge did with the B&B retelling - I really dislike "retellings" of fairytales that basically just tell the same story all over again! Cruel Beauty was refreshing in this regard.

    But yes, instalove, ah. And I remember the ending being pretty confusing, you're right about that. I was half hoping there would be a second part to this but as I understand it, Crimson Bound isn't a sequel at all. I still want to read it, though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Kaja^^ I completely know what you mean, I think my ratings have grown harsher compared to when I first started blogging too :) I agree that as far as retellings go, this was very unique and not at all a rehashing of the classic B&B tale...I just wish the world-building was satisfying enough for me.

      And yes, the dreaded insta-love almost triangle o_O that part wasn't my favorite either. Apparently, Crimson Bound is a standalone as well, I'll be giving it a chance too, hopefully I'll have better luck with that one!

      Delete
  15. When I read it I was one if those that loved it. But I like reading reviews that didn't like the books I did because it totally makes be see things I missed it didn't bother me at the time. Yes Nyx was aggravating and I totally guessed the split Ignifex Shade thing as well. Like you I would have preferred they stayed separate. Fabulous review loved all of your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Tabitha! I think most people seem to have LOVED this one. I've only stumbled upon 2-3 reviews that reflected my thoughts, compared to tons of others that loved it. I guess we all become black sheep from time to time LOL

      Delete
  16. Myesh, I recall feeling the same way when I read this one. One part of me was just fine and dandy to just go along with the craziness of it all and enjoy it for what it was, and the other part needed explanations STAT! I guess it's just not the best kind of read for complex fantasy lovers, like ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could have just easily been in the right mood and been able to go along with the craziness, like you said. But I wasn't. And it sucked :( I wanted to love it but I just couldn't let it go. You're right, when you get used to complex fantasies, everything else just falls short^^

      Delete

I LOVE comments & do my best to return every one a.s.a.p. ♥
This blog is an award-free zone. I appreciate the thought but I can't invest the time needed.