Cruel Beauty

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Cruel Beauty Book Poster Image
Rich fantasy world meets Beauty/Beast-style mature romance.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers can look at the ways this story is based on the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale. Also, this cut-off world worships Roman gods and goddesses and some of the lesser "peasant" gods called Hedge gods. Mythological stories are told throughout, especially those dealing with the Underworld and including older stories of Kronos and Typhon.

Positive Messages

Revenge is the driving force here. It compels a father to sacrifice his daughter and his daughter to resent and even despise him for using her. But there's also the idea of sacrificing for the greater good and being selfless enough to make that sacrifice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nyx is resentful and angry and often acts out, but she feels a lot of remorse for it and is then driven to put others above herself and her own desires.


Nyx spends most of the book plotting against her husband. She threatens to stab him, wrestles with him, and lets him suffer at the hands of demons who are eating away at him. Nyx is caught in a fire and almost dies. Talk of eight previous wives and how they died -- one fell down a staircase, and some were attacked by demons. For one night Nyx is locked in with the dead wives who are all preserved as if sleeping -- when she's thrown in the room, her hand touches a dead wife's tongue. Nyx is attacked by demons who crawl all over her and try to possess her -- multiple mentions of this happening to villagers as she's growing up, who afterward either go mad or die. Mention of the Roman story of Lucretia who is raped, kills her rapist, and then kills herself out of shame. Talk of eternal torment at the hands of demons. Talk of Nyx's mother's death in childbirth, caused by the bargain Nyx's father made with the Gentle Lord.


Characters have sex, but it's not described at all. More descriptions of passionate kisses, and twice clothes are suddenly stripped off. Nyx talks about her aunt and her father sharing a bed. Nyx's aunt tries to give Nyx a lecture on her "wifely duties" when she's married.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Nyx is 17 and drinks wine at dinner, and, as an homage to the dead, she shares most of a bottle of wine at a grave site.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cruel Beauty is a romantic fantasy wherein the heroine, Nyx, is held captive a la "Beauty and the Beast." The beast in question is a demon called the Gentle Lord, who gets Nyx as a wife in payment. She spends a lot of time plotting to kill him -- probably a smart move, because he's had a hand in killing eight previous wives. In the only gory scene, as punishment Nyx is thrown in the room where all eight are preserved -- and before her eyes adjust to the dark, she sticks her hand in one wife's mouth. Besides a fire that almost kills Nyx, the other violence is of the evil demon variety. For example, dark shadows consume victims, but the anguish is more mental. Other mature content includes sex that's not described more than clothing being torn away, and kisses that are well described. Nyx is 17 and drinks at dinner and at a grave site. She's a flawed character bent on revenge at first who grows a lot in the course of the book. She releases a lot of resentment and anger at the family that sacrificed her and is willing to sacrifice more for the greater good.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byApril R. October 26, 2017

Good rendition of Beauty and the Beast

A few lull spots, but otherwise a good YA read. The setting is in a made up world like earth, but no "known" location. The characters are easy to unde... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bythe bookie December 24, 2020
Teen, 13 years old Written bytwistedlover123 December 16, 2014
Interesting. Best word I could describe it as really. Quite different from the genres I usually read. But let me say, it was really, really good. It satisfied m... Continue reading

What's the story?

After Nyx and her twin sister, Astraia, lost their mother in childbirth, their father swore revenge against the Gentle Lord, the Lord of Bargains. The Gentle Lord had promised him healthy children and as payment asked for one to be his bride on her 17th birthday. So for most of Nyx's life she's been preparing to marry the enemy and try to destroy him to avenge her mother and save her whole village from the demons he unleashes on them. But that won't be easy. First, the Gentle Lord is a demon who can't easily be killed. Second, his house that looks like a pile of ruins on the hill is really a labyrinth of a castle filled with more demons, innumerable locked rooms and staircases, and dangerous secrets. Third, he's kind of irresistibly handsome.

Is it any good?

First, do not get turned off by the title, or by the tag line; Cruel Beauty is not only for the romance-reading crowd. In fact, it's just as good a fit for fans of high fantasy. First-time author Rosamund Hodge really takes time and effort to build her fantasy world. The true highlight is the castle -- with its constantly changing nature (sometimes it rains in the library, sometimes the books are all gibberish) and labyrinth of bizarre rooms and locked doors, it's really almost as compelling a character as the troubled Nyx. As Nyx explores, more very curious questions emerge.

Of course creating this complex a backdrop can get tricky. Sometimes the story is too caught up in a web of clever ideas and doesn't take the clearest way to present them to the reader. Then we're more lost in the labyrinth than we'd like. Still, if future books from this first-time author are half this clever, they'll be well worth reading.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about "Beauty and the Beast" and Cruel Beauty. How are these stories similar? How are they different? 

  • Is Nyx a typical heroine? How do her flaws and personal struggles add to the tension in the story? Would you root more for a heroine who's all good, all the time, or one who struggles to do what's right?

  • Talk about the romance in this story and its captor/captive-related forbidden quality. What's exciting about forbidden love? What's wrong about it? We find out that the Gentle Lord was forced into his marriages by forces more sinister, but still, would that excuse his behavior in anything but a fairy tale?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romantic fantasy and fairy tales

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