Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty - Rosamund Hodge

I hate to say it, but this book is a complete mess.  It took me several attempts to read it and I nearly threw it into my DNF pile.  The author weaved Greek mythology and demon-lore into a weird medieval fairy tale setting. Some readers may see this Beauty and the Beast re-telling as an ambitious and imaginative endeavor, but the author isn't remotely able to pull all of these elements together into a cohesive and logical story.

 

As previously stated, the plot is a mess.  The mythology is lost amidst the romance and there's a strange insta-love triangle in this story that is barely tolerable.  I don't get it.  Anyway, the world-building is horrendous and mythological stories are randomly thrown into the narrative.  One moment Nyx is hating herself for wanting to kiss the "evil" Ignifex and then the story abruptly shifts to a mediocre synopsis of some skirmish among Greek gods.  I kind of understand what the author was trying to do, but the lack of transitions made the narrative incredibly confusing to follow or enjoy.

 

The thing that bothered me the most about this book was the writing itselfI could be nice and say it just wasn't for me, but my irritation is so great that I must express my dissatisfaction with the lack of editing.  A story should have transitions and a sense of ease and flow.  It should sound natural, but the writing in Cruel Beauty is so awkward and disjointed. Here are a few excerpts:

 

1. "I almost could have pretended that Father was trying to show how much he loved me, or at least how much he honored my sacrifice."

 

2. "All my life, I had hated the Gentle Lord, but only in the way that one hates plague or fire.  He was a monster who had destroyed my life, who oppressed my entire world, but he was still only a story.  Now I had seen him, dined with him, kissed him.  I had watched him kill.  I had a name for him, even if it was not true.  So I could truly hate him.  I hated that he could kiss me, kill me, or lock me up with perfect ease.  Most of all, I hated that he had made me want him."  

 

3. "He snorted. 'Your lore is stupider than I thought.'"

 

4. "I didn't know why I had ever felt that he could dissolve or unmake me; this kiss felt like coming alive, and I was helpless only in the way that I was helpless to stop my heart from beating."

 

I know we all have writing preferences and pet-peeves, but COME ON.  Phrases and words like "I almost could have" and "stupider" are glaring edits.  Ignifex is supposed to be a witty and charasmatic bad-boy, but having him utter the word "stupider" contradicts his characterization and makes him sound like a moron.  Words like "almost" and "that" can easily be deleted without changing the meaning of the sentence. I won't even get into the author's excessive use of commas.  Good Lord.

 

Then there's the phrase "I had hated" in the second sentence I listed above.  I don't claim to be an expert on the correct use of the past perfect, but inserting 'had' into the sentence implies Nyx hated the Gentle Lord at one point in the past but no longer does.  Yet, she stresses in the sentences that follow how much she still loathes him (and now herself because apparently he's sexy and all that jazz - personally, I think Ignifex and Shadow are creepy blokes.  To each her own). 

 

The constant switching between past simple and past perfect tenses was distracting.  I'm not convinced the author uses the past perfect correctly throughout the novel, but I've also never claimed to be a grammarian so what do I know?  Many of the sentences feel wrong to me and could have been re-worked to reduce repetition and avoid the frequent use of "had."

 

I would also like to note the author likes to use many of the same phrases throughout the novel, such as "only in the way."  It's unclear to me what this expression is supposed to accomplish.  I interpret the use of "only in the way" as Nyx trying to express the degree of her feelings and she is attempting to make a comparison to another type of emotional state or situation.  However, repeating the words 'helplessness' and 'hate' over and over again is not only annoying, but it also fails to make any type of sensible comparison.  On another side rant, how hard is it to think of other feeling or descriptive words?!?  What about resentment, scorn, hostility, loathing, or revulsion?  Perhaps Nyx can feel forlorn, defenseless or forsaken?    

 

The lack of editing kind of boggles my mind.  The second sentence is also a perfect example of telling rather than showing.  If the author really wanted her readers to feel hatred and conflicting emotions toward Ignifex, then Nyx would have been placed in situations without the need to spell out the type of emotion she is experiencing.  We would feel the cruelness of Ignifex's actions and develop hatred toward him on our own.  Telling me Ignifex is evil does nothing but cause me boredom and make me yearn for a glass of wine to help me endure the rest of the book.