Reading Level: Young Adult
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Cruel Beauty Universe
Source: ARC through Amazon Vine
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I got an advanced reading copy of this book to review through the Amazon Vine program. I love fairy tale retellings and this retelling of Beauty and the Beast was described as a mix of Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast. It ended up being a decent book, there were some things I really loved about it but also some things that could have been done better.
Nyx’s father made a deal with the Gentle Lord and as a result Nys will pay for his bargain. Nyx has been destined to marry the Gentle Lord since her birth, the Gentle Lord is basically a Prince of demons and shadows and is greatly feared by all. Nyx’s father has been training her since birth to kill the Gentle Lord and bring down his nine hundred year old kingdom which has kept their kingdom of Arcadia trapped in an isolated world. However when Nyx finally meets the Gentle Lord, Ignifex, she finds out that things are not quite how she has been lead to believe.
Nyx is an interesting character, she is obviously scared to meet her new husband. She is also a bit bitter against her sister, Astraia, who is allowed to live peacefully with the family because she takes more after her mother than her father. Nyx is determined to complete her mission of assassinating the Gentle Lord, but also strangely drawn to Ignifex’s strange mix of tenderness, dark humor, and cruelty. Nyx is a character that is very flawed and hard to like, but her cruelty paired with her compassion make her fascinating.
Ignifex is also a fascinating character. You don’t really know what to expect from him. He is more indifferent and playful than cruel in the beginning of the story. As the story continues we start to see more aspects of his personality, he is cruel, he is powerful, yet he can be kind and he is somewhat vulnerable. Of course he is handsome and dashing.
This book is mostly about the relationship between Nyx and Ignifex, and I have to say they are pretty excellent together. They each have a blend of cruelty and tenderness that compliments the other. They both are very flawed and they both do good and evil things.
The world is an interesting one. It seems to be based on Greco-Roman culture. There are a lot of mythology references throughout. In some ways this book is not only a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but also a retelling of Pandora’s Box and Cupid and Psyche.
There are a lot of elements from Beauty and the Beast in here as well. Although it is a bit twisted. Initially you think Nyx is Beauty and Ignifex is the Beast, but the roles could be reversed…Nyx does some truly beastly things as well and Ignifex is supposed to be a creature of sublime beauty. Nyx does get permission to leave to visit her family at one point (just like in Beauty and the Beast) and this triggers some momentous events (just like in the original Beauty and the Beast story).
There were a few things I didn’t like about this novel. It was very predictable, there is a bit of a love triangle at the beginning of the book but you can quickly figure out what is going on here and it is very predictable. I found the characters a bit hard to engage with at times and especially in the beginning of the book they weren’t very likable. I also felt like they were a bit 2D and could have been filled out a bit more, maybe it is just that the writing style isn’t as descriptive or flowing as it could have been.
The last thing I didn’t like was the fact that Nyx can do magic called Hermetic workings but they are never all that well explained and not used a ton throughout the book. The magic system between the Hermetic workings sounds fascinating and I really wish it had been expanded upon. Additionally Nyx doesn’t use this skill a ton throughout the book, it seems like a skill Nyx really values and I didn’t understand why she didn’t make more use of it.
The writing was a bit stark and simple for me, this made the book feel a little dull and lackluster at points. The story didn’t come alive and it was hard to picture some scenes in the book.
Overall this was a decent fairy tale retelling and a quick read. I liked the premise behind the book and throught the world was interesting. Although I liked the idea behind Nyx and Ignifex I really had some trouble engaging with them. I did enough the mythological elements throughout and thought this book did a decent job of retelling Beauty and the Beast in a unique way. There was just something about the writing style that made the book feel a bit dull for me, maybe it was that the writing style was a bit stark for this type of story. When I finished this book I kind of felt like, “Huh, well that was okay but it could have been better.”