Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Posted March 4, 2014 in Review / 11 Comments

Cruel_BeautyCruel Beauty
by Rosamund Hodge
Published January 28th, 2014
Balzer + Bray
346 pages
Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Source: Received from Balzer + Bray (via Edelweiss) in exchange for an unbiased review (Thank You!)



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About the Book:

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.

On world building alone, Rosamund Hodge scored a huge ass WIN with her debut novel, Cruel Beauty.  At least by my standards….

But, I did it again.  I looked at the reviews for this book when I finished reading.  I was still coming out of my “book-trance” at the time so I was feeling slightly protective.  I get like that towards my books; it’s completely in proportion to how much I enjoyed the book.

I can tell you, if you look past the marketing of this book as a “retelling” and go into it with the knowledge that this is an extremely dark, lush, intricate world built upon a new civilization that has to deal with defending itself from demons by offering sacrifices, you’ll be more than rewarded with the most awesome “book trance” ever!

It’s unclear what time period or where exactly this story is taking place (somewhere around Greece / Italy), but it’s a civilization that lives with kings.  Long ago, demons plagued the earth and in a last ditch effort, the last king made a bargain that saved his tiny island but a demon lord now rules over it all.  To appease this ruling demon, sacrifices are made yearly in the form of wives for him.  Nyx is the next sacrifice but she’s been raised to actually fight back to save her island. 

Where I myself stumbled a bit in the mythology was where the lords or people in higher standing worshiped the greek gods while the common folk (for lack of a better term) seemed to cling to the older ways and worshiped either the pagan, norse, or celtic gods and goddesses.  Brigid was one of those pagan goddesses mentioned and she’s in pagan, norse, and in celtic mythology.  I’m completely spit balling my knowledge here so don’t call me an expert or cite this review in any report.  This is just my theory on where mythology fits into this story.

Have I mentioned the crazy demon house yet?  Or the scary ass staircase???  I’ve got to tell you, when they sacrifice their daughters in this story, they pretty much leave them at the curbside and run.  But Nyx is such a thoroughly complex and dare I say… young girl to be so brave and have such a heavy burden.  I think she pretty much shuts down when she walks up the the demon house and promptly falls asleep in the foyer. 

But then we meet the demon lord… Ignifex.  He’s charming, smart, and has the driest, most spectacular humor I’ve seen written in quite a while.  What’s the saying?  “I’d do him.”  Yeah, that’s about right. 

Shade is a fellow captive in the demon lord’s house.  He befriends Nyx and helps her find her way through the house.  I figured out his little secret early in the book but that never took anything away from the story because I still needed to know how it would all play out.  Tee, hee… I’m such a non-spoiling tease, right???

Frustrating and infuriating are the best words to sum up the rest of the supporting characters.  Every single one of them.  No exceptions.  None.

Overall, world building is what absolutely hooked me into this story.  In the end, it was the complex story that held me enchanted all the way to the very last sentence, that made me LOVE the book.  I’m looking forward to Ms. Hodge’s novella, Gilded Ashes, coming out April 2014.


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photograph by Janelle Bighinatti
photograph by Janelle Bighinatti

About the author:

When my older brother was thirteen, he started a writing club with his friends and wouldn’t let me join because I was only eight. I promptly swore that I would become a writer and make him sorry.

He still isn’t sorry. (I checked.) But in 2014 I will publish my first novel with Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, so I guess everything worked out okay.

Some other facts about me:

• I practice Shorinji Kempo, a Japanese martial art based on Shaolin Kung Fu.

• Cruel Beauty is my debut novel, but it is somewhere between the third and sixth that I ever completed, depending on how you count things. (There was the 40,000-word mess I called a novel when I was sixteen, and the 220,000-word mess I briefly pretended was a single novel in 2009.)

• NaNoWriMo changed my life and got me finishing novels again after a long hiatus. But Cruel Beauty is not a NaNoWriMo novel. (The NaNoWriMo project that changed everything was the 220,000-word mess. Someday I may even revise it.)

• I grew up as a homeschooler in Los Angeles, and I spent my childhood marinating in Greek mythology, which is where all the Greek elements in Cruel Beauty come from.

• Then I got a B.A. in English at the University of Dallas, and an M.St. in Medieval English at Oxford. Naturally, I moved to Seattle and got a job with computers.

• I have studied five languages (Spanish, French, Latin, Old Norse, and Japanese), though sadly I am still not able to speak any of them.

• I love some things more than T. S. Eliot’s poetry. But not many things.

• I am represented by Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates.

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Other Books in the series:

gilded ashes















About Kristin

Kristin has to ensure she gets her minimal requirement of "happily ever after" books in between those books that contain cliffhangers and never-ending story arcs. It's for her family's sake. When not reading, she's homeshooling her 10-year old son, watching cartoons on TV, or taking a nap.

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11 responses to “Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

  1. Oh my goodness, that was an awesomely hilarious review! “I’d do him.” LOL. And this also makes me really happy b/c I was looking forward to this book, but I saw the bad reviews too :/ I think not going into it stuck on the idea that it’s a retelling is excellent advice, and that is what I intend to do 🙂
    Jessica recently posted…Review: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

    • K

      I’d say just be open and if it bogs you down, just set the book down and walk away for a bit. You might be surprised that you want to pick it up later after thinking about it awhile.

      Yeah, I’m rethinking my writing style. I think the publishers might not be so keen on my “humor”. Thank you for thinking I’m funny 🙂

    • K

      You know, you just have to look at EVERYONE’S reviews – I think the depth of the story really makes this on stand out. I’m anxious to see what she does with this novella 😉

    • K

      Oh, I am SOOO interested… that and Winner’s Curse but I’m going to have skim Winner’s b/c I haven’t read it yet 😀