Review: Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe #1) by Rosamund Hodge

Quick review for a quick read. As epic of a retelling of Beauty and the Beast as this was in places, I still feel pretty baffled (and more than a little gutted) by the transpiring of events towards the last quarter of the book and that ending. So I’m torn on my reaction. I thought the narrative captured strong odes to B&tB very well. Nyx is a young woman who’s fated to be married to the Gentle Lord, the ruler to all in her kingdom of Archadia. Archadia is overrun by demons and the Gentle Lord is said to be the ruler and harbringer of them all. Nyx’s tasked with destroying the Gentle Lord to avenge her mother, though she’s bitter about being sent to what may ultimately be her death despite her sister Astraia continuing to live and her father having made a bargain to sacrifice her. I definitely liked Nyx initially, even with the bit of darkness in her heart and actions, I could see why she was bitter.

But upon thinking about the events of the book, I couldn’t help but notice that the actual progression of the plot was very convoluted. Nyx is basically torn between her loyalties to Shade, noted to be the true lost prince of the kingdom trapped under the rule of the Gentle Lord, and the Gentle Lord himself, whom Nyx develops a fondness for over time despite his cruelty. There are some wonderful scenes of darkness and tension that I enjoyed reading about through the work, but at the same time, I felt like Nyx’s focal role as a fighter or quest for true revenge really got lost in this book in places. Then the ending really threw a curveball and I didn’t know what to think after that. Was it a happy ending? Yes and no – I honestly felt after reading this that there was no true lead in to the events that were marching towards that conclusion, and I had a hard time matching Nyx’s motivations with her actions and the scheme of events that happened in the last quarter of the book. I suppose that’s a potential set up for the following stories set in this universe, but despite all the cool descriptions and nice scenes of tension that Nyx faces (with good odes to the conflicts in the Beauty and the Beast tale) – I’m left with an odd emotional void after finishing the book. I’m definitely planning on reading the sequel, but I felt “Cruel Beauty” ultimately suffered through a number of progressive flaws that didn’t fully sell me on the story. Entertaining and engaging in places, but disorganized and meandering in others.

Overall score: 3/5 stars.

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