Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cruel Beauty

I honestly don't remember how I initially discovered Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty.  But the library ordered it, so I put it on hold.  I found it to be an interesting book, so I'm going to talk about it with some spoilers.

Cruel Beauty is the story of Nyx Triskelion.  Before she was born, her father made a bargain with the Gentle Lord, prince of the demons, for children; the price was that one of those promised daughters would wed the Gentle Lord when she became 17.  Nyx grew up knowing that she was the sacrifice because her younger twin, Aststraia, is the splitting image of their deceased mother.  Under the instruction of her father, she trained to kill the Gentle Lord, feeling always like a weapon and never like a loved daughter.  And so she grew up with poison festering within her heart.

Nyx lives in Arcadia, a continent torn out of the real world and forced under a false paper-like sky.  She was raised knowing that if you stare in the shadows too long, the shadows will stare back.  It was the Gentle Lord who tore Arcadia out of the real world, and so the scholars of the land surmise that killing him will set the world right. Or at least stop the demons so they can figure out how to bring Arcadia back to the Earth.

But once Nyx is married and in the Gentle Lord's castle, she finds that the demon prince, Ignifex, is not what she expected.  And though she has trained and sworn to kill him, she finds herself falling in love with him.  For Ignifex is the only one who has seen the poison in her heart, and yet he loves her still.

The plot of the story is very "Beauty and the Beast" (referring to thJeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont version rather than the Disney one).  Even though it is clothed in a new skin, I knew the story beats Cruel Beauty would follow.  And so I found it good but relatively predictable.

Or at least until the end.  The end had what I call "time-travel shenanigans."  The spell on the Gentle Lord is undone, and so Arcadia returns to the real world, with the 900 years of its time in the shadow realm undone.  But of course, after Nyx is born and becomes 17, she manages to remember Ignifex and so save him.  The initial bargain stated that if he looked in Pandora's Box, Arcadia would go back to the real world and he would be imprisoned in the Box forever.  But the Kindly Ones (the beings who made the deal with him), allowed him out of the Box once every year to ensure that Arcadia remained safe from harm.  It was on this day that Nyx found and saved him from his eternal torment.  

Overall, I really did enjoy Cruel Beauty.  While the end was a bit too weird for my liking, I think the book gets points for being unpredictable.  Cruel Beauty was a fun and different take on "Beauty and the Beast," full of interesting characters like Nyx, Ignifex, and his shadow, Shade; if you like new takes on classic fairy tales, then Hodge's book is definitely for you!  

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