A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Author: Rosamund Hodge
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Brothers and Sisters, Fairy Tales
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: January 28, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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