Sunday, 13 July 2014

Review || Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge ★★☆☆☆
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.

May was a strangely productive reading month, but I was starting to feel a little burned out. So I picked up the audiobook version of this on a whim and started listening. There was a different kind of concentration involved in listening to a book as opposed to reading it, and it definitely helped soothe my reading fatigue.

Overall, the narrator of this audiobook was quite enjoyable. That was one of the strongest parts of this "read", I felt.

That's not to say that Cruel Beauty didn't have its other selling points. The classical mythology references that were scattered throughout the narrative were interesting. The prose itself had a lyrical quality to it, and the descriptions were lush with detail. And the nefarious bargains made by the demon lord were fascinating--especially the way the consequences were twisted up in the seemingly harmless wording.

However, for the most part, this book just didn't really do it for me. I found myself wanting to listen to the audio often, but I think that was more because of the novelty of it. The story itself ended up just being okay for me.

Nyx was one of my major barriers. She's angry, frustrated and hurtful--all of which is to be expected. She's been preparing for most of her life to be a living sacrifice for her people. Not only that, but she's burdened with their hopes as well. Her familial love is twisted by this sense of duty, jealousy and despair. Her anger is justified.

But she blames that on herself. She thinks herself selfish for wanting a different life when she alone could save her people. The feelings twist and tangle up inside of her and she lashes out.

All of which are completely understandable. This is not the reason why I didn't like her. It's because, instead of growing, instead of taking action, Nyx is constantly waylaid by her own angst. She's so wishy-washy. She loves her family, she hates her family. She hates the demon, she loves the demon. She's going to save everyone, she doesn't care about anyone. She's going to betray her husband, oh no, maybe not.

It was infuriating.

The narrative isn't much better.

There's an entire system of "magic" that's almost completely unexplained and exists for almost no reason except to be a plot device. It's not fleshed out and despite the scraps of information we get about it, it doesn't seem to mesh well with the rest of the world here.

The plot also likes to remind you that it's smarter than you and does things like have Nyx find out everything, not explain any of it to the reader, and then have her conveniently forget it all. Why. Why.

Ignifex as a love interest was baffling as well. The relationship doesn't seem to develop at all, just suddenly changes to love for no reason. One minute Nyx is hurling crockery at him and threatening to kill him, the next she's being bedded by him. Ignifex is mocking and cold and detached for the most part. The narrative tries to play it off because they're both "monsters" (Ignifex literally, Nyx because of her hatred) but the romantic tension was never believable. Also, I really can't stand violence and emotional manipulation being played off as romantic. No. Just no.

And then the ending happened.

One of the major "twists" I saw coming, but it still pleased me to be right. But then everything afterwards got really convoluted at the end. And then suddenly happily ever after? Wait what.

I don't know if I would've finished this had I not been listening to the audiobook. Overall, I found it lacklustre, confusing and annoying for the most part. I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it.