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.
Beauty and the Beast retelling are a dime a dozen. Swing a cat and you’ll hit one, and that’s before you include all the fantasy/paranormal romances that include elements from the fairytale. Therefore, there’s a lot of precedent for what to expect from another one. I was happy to find that Cruel Beauty was probably the best one I’ve read so far. It completely avoided the “is-it-Stockholm-Syndrome” issue, and Ignifex was pretty intoxicating. However, the sort-of love triangle and some sudden declarations of love irked me and kept this from me crowning it the überretelling.
Let’s start off with what I didn’t like and get it out of the way.
1. There was kind of a love triangle. It’s hard to explain without spoiling. For me, it just complicated stuff and took time away from interactions between Nyx and Ignifex, which were awesome. Nyx and Shade, Ignifex’s servant, just didn’t have chemistry, and everything between them was hecka sudden. Basically, this subplot happened to fast and was a good example of why love triangles are annoying.
2. This is more of a nitpick, but I felt that Nyx and Ignifex threw “I-love-yous” around too quickly. I thought that them falling for each other was well-paced and had good buildup, but getting into a romantic relationship and realizing you’re in love with someone do not happen at the same time. There were also a few moments here and there when I felt the plot was moving too quickly, but I think that’s just because I like to marinate in my stories like good tandoori chicken. (Let’s all pretend this analogy makes sense.)
Not to say I didn’t love Nyx/Ignifex (Nygnifex?)! Because I did! Let’s just focus on Ignifex here, because he was good. There is banter! There is snark! There is chemistry! Thank the Lares! For a Beauty and the Beast retelling to work, I need me a good Beast, and Rosamund Hodge delivered, friends. I could have used less time with Shade and more with him to build the romantic tension, but what I got was far from underwhelming.
Also, as I mentioned, there was zero Stockholm Syndrome. This mostly speaks to Nyx’s characterization. Even when she’s realized she’s very physically attracted to Ignifex, she’s still working on her mission, and it’s only after she learns why he does what he does that she allows herself to fall for him.
Despite an annoying sort-of-love-triangle and some overly eager lovers, Cruel Beauty stands out from the many Beauty and the Beast retellings out there with its reasonable heroine and seductive love interest. It’s not quite the ultimate, end-all be-all re-imagining, but it’s a worthy alternative.