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.
(Summary from Goodreads)
I’ve heard really good things about Cruel Beauty, so I was happy to find that I really enjoyed it. While I was a huge fan of Ignifex’s whole tall, dark, and evil thing, what I loved the most was the interesting world building.
Cruel Beauty is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but it also draws from a lot of elements of Greek mythology, elements that are the basis of Nyx’s world. I loved this part, since I’m so used to medieval-inspired fantasy worlds. It seems like a strange combination at first – mythology and fairytale – but it worked really well.
I also liked how there was more to some of the characters than we first thought, especially Nyx’s sister, Astraia. We only ever see Astraia through Nyx’s eyes, so our perceptions of Astraia change along with Nyx’s. Initially, she seems spoiled and naive, but we eventually come to realize there’s another, darker side of her. Same with Ignifex – Nyx views him as a monster until she gets to know him better; his backstory is actually really fascinating.
Speaking of Ignifex, I really liked his and Nyx’s relationship. The two of them bring out the worst in each other, but it works because they both accept each other and don’t try to turn them into anyone they’re not. On the other hand, I feel like this relationship could’ve been developed a little bit more; Nyx is attracted to Ignifex because he’s ~mysterious~, and then falls for him without really knowing much about him or even spending much time with him.
The plot felt like it moved a little fast, but that also could’ve been because of how much information was packed into it. Cruel Beauty wasn’t a particularly long book, and there was a lot of information – history about the world, and mythology, and all of that – that was dumped in, which I found interesting, but would’ve felt less like one big, long info dump if it had been spaced out more.
If you like retellings – especially if you enjoyed Jane Nickerson’s Strands of Bronze and Gold – Cruel Beauty would be a good book to look into.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars