“We Still could have snatched happiness from our tragedy if we had made the right choices, the right wishes. If we had been kinder, braver, purer. If only we had been anything but what we were.”
Hey, rad readers!
Lo here! I just finished reading Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, and I literally have no idea how I’m going to review this thing because I don’t think I entirely understand what just happened. But, I do know that I liked it! Well, I liked it as much as one can like a book that they don’t entirely understand. See, already I’m confused and you’re probably confused now too, so let’s just jump into this spoiler-free review and hope that I can somehow make sense of my emotions (and what the heck just happened in this book!)
Let’s just go right into the most confusing part first…the world-building! Literally so much mythology is thrown at you from the beginning of the novel. It was so overwhelming, and eventually I just started skimming the parts where they talked about the gods and their stories. Some of it made sense and I could see how it was relevant, but most of them were not really needed and only confused/bored me! Also, the setting of the world started off cool with the land of Arcadia being stuck in a dome where they could not see the sun or stars. It really added to the eeriness of this novel! But there was some sort of magic system in the world that was never really explained and ended up feeling entirely useless. Then at the very end of the book, time travel (at least that’s what I think it was???) was thrown into the mix as well. So, I really just didn’t understand the limits or perimeters of this world or its magic (was there really magic? I don’t even know??)
Okay, good parts! So I loved the main two characters: Nyx and Ignifex (*insert heart eyes emoji here*)
Nyx was an incredible female heroine. I really, really liked her! She was not some perfect, innocent special snowflake. She was a normal girl with a very understandable amount of hate in her heart. She wasn’t a girl that needed to be protected and she wasn’t some overly confident badass. In fact, she was somewhere in the middle (as most people are!) Nyx was strong and determined, but was also angry and desired love. She was so unlike any female protagonist I have read before, and I really liked how real and messy she was!
And Ignifex! Oh boy, did I love him!!! His whole story was so interesting and he was an incredibly complicated character. I really loved how he saw Nyx’s hatred and identified with it! These two were just fantastic. They saw the wickedness in themselves and in the other, and they worked through it together in way that was again…messy! I don’t even know if I’m making sense, but just know that this book features a beautiful story of two people who are both light and dark and are finding, in themselves and in each other, the strength to love and live with their darkness!
Overall, I really loved the eerie, Gothic vibe of this book! Hodge definitely added an edge to this Beauty & The Beast retelling. Cruel Beauty was also phenomenal in how it tackled human nature and about loving people for the entirety of them, good and bad. There were so many beautiful quotes that addressed this! So, yes the romance, characters, and questions of morality were a solid A+. However, the world building was strange. Honestly, I felt like Hodge was trying too hard and intentionally made the world vague in some areas so that she could just throw new things in when it was convenient. And TBH, I guessed the plot twist right off the bat! Don’t get me wrong, I still liked the plot/story, but it didn’t shock me. Also, while the ending was beautiful, it was also kind of disheartening. The random time-travel thing at the end made me feel like the story was incomplete. Though it was a hopeful ending, and again very beautiful, it left me feeling sort of wistful, which is not how I want a novel to leave me feeling!
Unrelated side note: This novel also used the phrase “our only hope” a lot. Like A LOT! and I couldn’t help but envision Star Wars every single time, so that kind of drew me out of the story.
Final Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I really did enjoy Cruel Beauty, and for a stand-alone, this was pretty amazing! And I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a darker fairy tale or a more complex romance!
I hope your day is full with magical houses and clear blue skies!
(Ash in spirit) & Lo