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Readers Advisory: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty

by Rosamund Hodge

Balzer + Bray, $17.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 0062224735, January 2014

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.

This mixture of Beauty and the Beast, the Persephone myth, and Tam Lin has its flaws but has legs nonetheless. Sure, the love triangle’s a bit weird, and the instalove comes fast and furious. On the other hand, these characters are so damaged and love-starved, you can see why they’d jump at any chance for affection. Nyx’s family groomed her as an assassin her entire life and saved the love for her sister, Ignifex is trapped in the life of a monster, and his servant Shade is also trapped and doesn’t even get to have a physical form all the time. Their lives suck. Of course they’re grabbing for happiness and confused about what constitutes love. They’re also not the most admirable characters you’ll ever run across, but again, with lives like theirs, it wouldn’t make much sense for them to be all sweetness and light.

Aside from those issues, the story’s smart, sexy, and absorbing. While the sex is implied rather than graphically depicted, the steaminess of the romance and Nyx’s frequent musings on whether or not Ignifex is going to deflower her put this fairy tale firmly in the older teen reader range.

Recommend to: Fans of paranormal romance, Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and fairy tale retellings

To buy or not to buy: A solid choice for public libraries with a dedicated YA department.

*This honest review refers to a digital ARC made available by the publisher via Edelweiss.

 

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