Series: Cruel Beauty Universe, #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl's journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.
Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
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.
The main character, Nyx, was kind of fun to pick apart. Her personality is definitely not rainbows an puppies! Actually, I'm going to say that about 90% of her personality is resentment and hatred. And for the first half of the book, that's all there really was to her. I'm glad that she grew as a person, because I doubt that I could have handled that for the entire book. When she fell in love with Ignifex, it was kind of like she became a different person, just a little. She still had her anger and resentment, but it wasn't nearly as strong - and now she has love and forgiveness and other emotions! She becomes compassionate.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Ignifex - who has no moral compass to speak of. I mean, it's not his fault - but I think it never occurs to him that some of the things he does are wrong. He's very childlike in that way, and he's also extremely trusting. He may be a merciless king, but I don't think it's entirely his fault.
The romance was a bit on the insta side, but it wasn't too bad. It was what you would expect from a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Nyx hates Ignifex for a while, but she falls in love with him pretty quickly once they've talked once or twice.
I have to say, the most surprising part of Cruel Beauty was the sheer number of twists that it employed! We have the Kindly Ones from Greek mythology, a shade (that has more meaning later), a castle full of demons and the world inside a castle. Not to mention the alternative universe! I had no idea how this could possibly have a happy ending, but it was pretty good, even if it was nothing like the retellings I'm used to.