Nyx Triskelion has been raised her entire life to prepare to kill her husband, the Gentle Lord, king of demons and responsible for cursing her world. But when she arrives at his house, she finds not everything is what she’s been led to believe. A tale inspired by Beauty and the Beast.
I was completely taken in by the complexity and originality of the world-building in Cruel Beauty. Not only did it take inspiration from the original Beauty and the Beast fairy tale (and I’m still trying to work out who was the beauty and who the beast), but it drew on Ancient Greek and Roman myths and mashed them up with its own original mythology. It wasn’t confusing, just complex, and it was actually kind of thrilling to see how original it all panned out.
For the most part I liked Nyx. She was brave, self-sacrificing and resourceful – until she met a pretty boy. Then she kind of lost her head. The day she’s married to her husband – who, you know, legit is a demon king, so you can understand her revulsion – she’s kissing someone else. She falls in love easily, breaks her heart, falls in love again, sacrifices her one major power for no real reason… I liked Nyx, but I didn’t understand her. I didn’t understand her motivation to act the way she acted. I understand – can even identify with – complete love and devotion to an essentially abusive family, and I understand why in the end she turned against them, but the motivation and lead up to that betrayal was harder for me to grasp. It might have been that she was a naïve seventeen year old girl and easily led astray by a pretty smile, but I think it was more a failure of the storytelling.
I loved Nyx’s relationship with her sister, Astraia. She was protective and loyal towards her more sheltered twin but she also resented having to be, and to top it off she had to hide that resentment until it boiled over. I liked her relationship with Shade, but thought the key moment in their relationship wasn’t foreshadowed at all and was completely unexpected and perhaps only inserted for a twist. And finally, I completely do not understand Nyx’s relationship with the Gentle Lord. Sometimes he seemed like your typical cocky teenage boy hero, other times he was genuinely interesting. I could never follow how Nyx felt about him, and I don’t understand her reactions to him.
This book was one of the hyped ones that hit my radar and caught my interest. I’m a huge fairy tale retelling fan and although there were certain elements I absolutely adored about this book, like the originality of the worldbuilding, I less enjoyed other aspects, such as Nyx’s difficult to follow motivation and the just plain weirdness of the romance. I don’t want to put anyone off reading this book though, because the prose is nice and clean, but I do want to make my reservations about the book clear.