Cruel Beauty

First Lines: I was raised to marry a monster.

So, y’all already know how I am with my fairy tales, especially my Beauty and the Beast retellings.  I fawn. I swoon. I fangirl.  I’ve been wanting to read this for months, but I was hesitant too because it’s been a while since I found a BatB retelling that I loved.

Nyx has always known it was her fate to marry the Gentle Lord, the evil ruler of her kingdom.  Her father made a deal with the ruler in a foolish bargain and agreed to give the Gentle Lord a daughter to wed.  And Nyx has spent her life training to kill the Gentle Lord.  Even though she doesn’t want to go, she gives up the life she’s known to marry Ignifex, the Gentle Lord.  Her plan is to seduce him, kill him, and break the 900 year old curse on her country.  But Ignifex isn’t what Nyx expected.  He’s beguiling and strangely charming.  As Nyx looks for ways to break the curse and learn Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself drawn to him.  Can Nyx still save her people, even if it means killing the man she was never supposed to love?

This was definitely a different take on the fairy tale.  Oh sure, the main elements are still there.  Monster in a castle, roses, all that fun jazz.  But it’s also different in a number of ways that I hope I can highlight in this review.

First, the main characters generally see themselves as evil.  Kind of a switch-up from normal fairy tales, right?  But seriously, the whole story has the characters going back and forth almost trying to one-up the other on who is more evil.  It made me oddly sympathetic.  And it was weirdly refreshing to not have to deal with simpering heroines and worthless bad guys.  But it did take some time getting used to.

Instead of dancing teacups and silverware, this book had a castle with a mind of its own.  Hallways and doorways changed more often than the staircases in Hogwarts.  It was crazy and not always in a good way.  I eventually gave up on trying to get a grasp on the scenery/setting because it was just no use.  (And some of the backstory too…just either try to figure it out in a way that works for you or just enjoy the ride.)

There was an infusion of Greek mythology into this story, which was unexpected and kind of cool.  I don’t want to say how or why, but suffice it to say that it makes a decent sized appearance.

I appreciated that the author seemed to grasp what was most important from the original tale.  (At least to me.)  See, I hate retellings that gloss over the time Beauty and the Beast spend together in the castle.  It’s my favorite part and so many decide that building Beauty’s backstory is more important.  This book did not do that.  I liked it very much for doing that.

But even after all of this, I have to admit that the beginning and the end were a bit rocky for me.  It was hard for me to get into the story because I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.  Nyx’s culture is not our own, so it was a lot of trying to understand that as well as the plot.  It was a bit overwhelming at times and my mental pictures were failing me.  And the end…it would have been a whole lot better if I hadn’t just read a book in the last two months with the very same ending.  I hope that’s not a new trend that’s starting in retellings.

Overall, it’s a very adventurous retelling with characters who aren’t perfect, magical settings, and a bit of a mystery.

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