Cruel Beauty

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by Rosamund Hodge

published 2014

In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Nyx has known her entire life that she would eventually be wed to the demon who has entrapped her land.  Her father and her aunt have raised her with the knowledge she needs to defeat this demon and free their world.  I love a good B&B retelling, and I liked the darker edge this story had.  The whole idea of Beauty being an assassin sounded pretty cool to me.   However, in the end, I found no one likable in this entire story, and thus was completely detached from what would happen to them.

Nyx tells the story, thankfully in past tense.  The problem is, Nyx goes out of her way to make us dislike her, emphasizing her negative qualities, dwelling on the bitterness she feels about her mother’s death, her father’s promise to wed her to the demon, her destiny to kill said demon, and a host of other things.  Nyx is a pretty bitter person, and it just doesn’t make for interesting reading, especially combined with her whining about how she knows she’s bitter but she just can’t help it!

Then Nyx heads off to the Beast’s castle, and we meet the demon, Ignifex, who is more a charming rake (actually reminded me of some Georgette Heyer characters lol) than a horrific demon.  Nyx feels an immediate attraction to Ignifex, which she calls “love” but is obviously mere lust because all she knows about him are the horrible things she’s been told.  At the same time, she also falls in love/lust with Ignifex’s servant-shadow, Shade, who can only take on a solid form in the darkness (although that seems a loose rule later in the book).   The whole story devolves into a rather dreadful love triangle comprised of bitter/conflicted/annoying Nyx, dashing/devil-may-care/roguish Ignifex, and mysterious/martyr-attitude/pitiful-yet-mysterious-attractive Shade.

Woven into the story are numerous references to Greek/Roman gods/myths, that added more confusion rather than clarification to the current tale, especially since I couldn’t tell if Ignifex was supposed to be another god, or if he was just mixed in for fun.

But it was the love triangle that irritated me the most.  First, Nyx is attracted to Ignifex.  Then, disgusted with the idea that she can feel any draw towards her enemy, she falls for Shade, the poor shadow-slave.  She smooches him a few times (at their first meeting, of course), and decides she must be in love with him.  Then she starts hanging out more with Ignifex and really likes him a lot.  A series of events and Shade does something that makes Nyx not trust  him, so Ignifex suddenly just locks him up, then he and Nyx start shagging and everything is all love and rainbows…????

I don’t know.  The whole story was choppy and confusing with flat characters.  I just couldn’t get behind Nyx as a person, and I didn’t like either of the guys either (or Nyx’s father, or aunt, or sister…), so while I continued to plow through the story until its end, it was a very meh read for me, 2/5.  I guess what irritated me the most is what irritates me the most about books that irritate me – I hate it when the characters are stagnant.  At the end, I didn’t feel as though anyone had grown has a person or learned anything from their trials and adventures, which is, to me, the entire point of writing a story.

As an aside, several months ago I read another retelling of Beauty & the Beast that was much better – beautiful writing, engaging characters, a fresh plot – if you’re looking for a good retelling, I would definitely recommend Of Beast & Beauty instead, as it actually  has a point and character development.