Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #1 (but also a Standalone)
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Initially, Cruel Beauty had many things going for it. It’s a fairytale retelling (a Beauty and the Beast one at that), it’s supposed to be a darker take with less-than-perfect protagonists, it’s well-written, and it’s got Greek mythology, which I’m obsessed with.
With all these elements, it was supposed to be perfect. Why wasn’t it perfect? I’ll get into that. First, a little bit of what the book is about.
The protagonist, Nxy, has been betrothed to marry a demonic lord who rules over her kingdom, since before she was born, due to a bargain that her father made with the lord. The plan is that she will marry him to infiltrate his castle and sacrifice herself to kill him, so that the kingdom can be saved. But the lord is charming and he accepts her for who she is, darkness and all, so can she really find the courage to fulfill her duty?
Not that it matters. The kingdom is full of dumbasses who don’t know shit, and the “duty” might just be guess the people made somehow because it’s not like the magic system was ever explained at all. In fact, it was so vague that I almost forgot to mention it in the review.
And that’s just one of the not-perfect things in this novel. There was also the protagonist and the convoluted plot near the end. But mostly the protagonist.
Nxy had a strange personality. She hated her sister for not being chosen to marry Ignifex (the lord) but felt guilty about her hatred. I understood that. But she kept flip-flopping between hateful anger, guilt, sadness, resentment, relief, so many things. She fell in love with one guy (Ignifex’s Peter-Pan-like shadow, Shade), then she fell for Ingnifex. One moment she was fine, then was miserable; one moment she hated everything and everyone, the next she was happy; one moment she was selfish, then she would go on and on about her duty. She was supposed to be smart, but was ridiculously easy to manipulate. And her motivation for most of her actions was flimsy, at best.
Some might argue that she’s just a complex character. I think she needs psychological help. Especially for the “duty” thing. She did something in the name of duty that was very stupid and did nothing but over-complicate things and render any development that took place in the novel as obsolete. All the hints, the build-up, the research, it was all for nothing. And the “reveal” was very predictable.
On top of that, this is being sold as a Beauty and the Beast retelling (or at least based on the fairytale). But it isn’t like that at all. Beauty and the Beast is about a girl who’s peculiar, and wise beyond her years, falling in love with someone’s inner self. It’s about change and looking past a person’s outward appearance, not giving in to your dark side. It’s also not about lust or temptation. And the fact library was shoehorned in there but had no significance other than to fit the book into the mould of the fairytale a little better; I was very disappointed.
Overall, like I said, this is a well-written novel and I liked the main plot. I liked that it had some darkness in it and I loved the addition of Greek mythology. I enjoyed some parts even though it seemed like a lot of things got lost in exploring the castle. The ending was good but so many things didn’t work. It was a bit of a mess, when I think about it. And I, personally, don’t recommend it.