Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom—all because of a reckless bargain her father struck. And since birth, she has been training to kill him.
Betrayed by her family yet bound to obey, Nyx rails against her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, she abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, disarm him, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle — a shifting maze of magical rooms — enthrals her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. But even if she can bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him?
I devoured Cruel Beauty in a single sitting; the Greco-Roman-Anglo setting was mouth dropping-ly lush and I’m always a sucker for fairy tale retellings. I won’t say I didn’t find some of the plot twists (particularly when it came to the riddles) a little bit confusing, I did, but despite the complexity of this novel the strong characterisations and the atmospheric retelling kept me from getting too frustrated with the story.
As with most romances, Nyx and Ignifex’s relationship changed them both for the better, although I’ll admit Shades’ role in the story had me worried initially. For a book that was really all about seduction it was far too clean, which I’m sure a lot of parents will appreciate. Another refreshing aspect of this novel was its protagonist who rather than being just another naïve, self-righteous miss was actually human – I wanted to cheer when Nyx admitted her own faults right off the bat and then started to come to terms with them.
This is a darkly original retelling with a rather wonderful mythology and setting at its core. The only problem with this book is that the imagination behind it almost overpowers the simple idea of a love story.
My rating: 4 stars out of 5.