Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe #1)
I loved the complexity of this novel; it wasn’t your average teen romance. The heroine wasn’t a goody-goody and she didn’t fall in love with a guy because he was hot or showed her kindness. Hodge does a great job of making the characters human. Showing that even the worst of us has a little good in him/her and even the best of us has a little bad. It’s difficult to dislike any of the characters because Hodge shows that our experiences alter who we are, turning some of us a little more bad while others become a little more good. Cruel Beauty isn’t a story of good versus evil or good falling for evil, but a story of people accepting both the good and bad parts of themselves and living their lives based on this unity.
The sort of, not really love triangle: So I can’t really explain this well without giving away a big part of the story, but I can say that this wasn’t your average teenage love triangle. Usually a girl falls for two guys for seemingly artificial reasons and laments throughout the book that she has to choose one and how will she choose one when they’re both great guys. However, that isn’t the case for Nyx. Nyx falls in love with Ignifex because he accepts the darkness in her heart and still genuinely loves her, something she wasn’t exposed to growing up. She falls in love with Shade because he sees the goodness in her heart she doesn’t believe is there. Both know her strengths and flaws and loves her anyway. Nonetheless, Nyx has trouble choosing between the two not because they both love her the way she’s always wanted to be loved, but because of what they symbolize. Choosing Ignifex means choosing herself and her happiness over her village, while choosing Shade means choosing her village over her happiness. However, because of reasons I can’t explain without spoiling the book, this choice becomes irrelevant in the end.
Comparison to Beauty and the Beast: Ok, I’ll admit the only version of Beauty and the Beast I’ve ever read is the Disney version and that was so long ago that the details are all fuzzy. However, Cruel Beauty does have all the main components of Beauty and the Beast. A girl falls in love with a “beast,” there’s a castle filled with magic, and in the end, the “beast” turns into a man. So if those are the characteristics I’m using to decide whether Cruel Beauty was a successful retelling, then it is. Yet, I’d like to re-emphasize that Cruel Beauty is more complex than the Beauty and the Beast I’m used to and encourage you to read it. Sure, it isn’t a book for everyone, but I loved it.