Cruel Beauty is yet another foray into the sub-genre of fairy tale retellings. Authors expound upon a set story and shape it to their desires. These stories always bring something exciting to the table, whether they’re set in the future with space travel and androids like The Lunar Chronicles or are a modern day retelling of the Persephone myth like the Everneath series.
In this instance, we have a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that is set in the land of Arcadia. There is a Grecian flair attached to everything in this book. It’s interesting, considering the other Beauty and the Beast renditions I’ve read have been contemporary and then the standard French countryside. Still, it reaches into areas of Greek subculture that I, as a voracious reader of mythology haven’t ever touched on.
The book itself starts off very slow. We meet our main protagonist and learn of the hatred in her heart and of her quest. But, how many times do we have to be reminded of her love for her annoyingly happy sister, that she’s going to be marrying the demon lord that rules the land, that she’s avenging her mother, and that her father is having an affair with her aunt? Apparently constantly throughout the first few chapters. Once Nyx makes it to her husband’s abode and starts to explore, it eventually picks up.
The book offers what appears to be a standard love triangle. While Nyx battles with her feelings and her perceptions of both the demon lord and his shadowy footman, she is weighed heavily with her original task of avenging her mother. Eventually, her heart wins out, especially after finding out how futile her original destructive plan was.
In giving her heart over to Ignifex, a mystery opens up. This mystery takes us through the rest of the book and the climax, offering an interesting take on the Beauty and the Beast mythos as well as that of the Greek Furies mythos. The ending is satisfactory, though a little muddled and somewhat cliché with an interesting juxtaposition from the introduction.
Yes, this book has the Stockholm syndrome type love that you’d expect from the source. Despite that, the author ends up weaving an interesting and mysterious romance that is both dark and captivating.