If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.
I almost sacrificed this book. I’m running short on money thanks to a recent and powerful trend of impulse buying, and after spending more money than I should have at Chapters, I decided I had to return some books. This book was one of them. At the last minute I buckled under the weight of irrational justifications – but the author’s name is Rosamund. Isn’t that just the most lovely thing ever? – and decided to keep the book. Irrational thinking, you won this round.
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- enthrals 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.
The first thought I had while reading this book was that I like that Nyx isn’t perfect, and that Rosamund Hodge let Nyx’s anger and hate and instant guilt over those feelings crash through her:
I hate you […] if you had not been so weak, so desperate, I would not be doomed. I hate you, Mother, forever and ever.
Just thinking the words left me shaking. I knew it was wrong and my throat tightened with guilt, but before I could say anything else, Aunt Telomache dragged me to my feet and out of the room. – 20
I really liked Nyx as a character, although I felt like she fell into romantic emotions much too quickly. She was crafty and resilient and those were her best qualities. At first I didn’t like the idea of either of her romantic interests, but slowly, they both grew on me till I was a little worried at who I would rather have for her. I loved Shade’s quiet peace and grace (though I confess I first found him…shady. Haha, I’m so sorry), but seeing the Gentle Lord’s vulnerability stopped my breath.
What I thought was really great was the character development. We’re not just given these static characters or shown their true nature right off the bat. The personalities and characters of our main characters – Nyx, the Gentle Lord, Shade, and Astraia – unfurl slowly. I was shocked to discover that more than one of those characters was not who I initially thought they were!
As for the story itself, I would say that this book is definitely a crescendo. Rather than being fast-paced the whole way through, or scattered with peaks of action, this book slowly upped the pace until I had to physically move to another seat to handle what was happening. The characters fell down on top of each other quite a bit and I do wish the romantic interests would have developed a little slower so I could savour the journey there, but all in all, I really have no complaints.
Cruel Beauty surpassed my expectations and the parallels between this story and Beauty and the Beast were mild enough that I could value this book on its own merit.
I suppose gods as well as men become stupid when they have a chance to get everything they want.
The Gentle Lord to Nyx: And you. Leonidas’s sweet and gentle daughter, with a world of poison in your heart.
There’s no wisdom in the world that will stop humans from trying to snatch what they want.
IN NIHIL AB NIHILO QUAM CITO RECIDIMUS. From nothing into nothing, how swiftly we return.
Rosamund Hodge does an excellent job of showing us all the sides of Nyx, including the ugly and poisoned ones; she’s not afraid to fully show off this darkness inside of Nyx and it ends up being that darkness that saves it. The brilliant thing about this is that it shows us that our weaknesses can be our redeemers.