Saturday, May 31, 2014

YAck Attack: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

From Goodreads:

 Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

Nicole: Okay, how was I the first one to finish? I'm NEVER the first one to finish. Somebody should finish because I have a lot of THOUGHTS but don't want to spoil anybody. 

Angie: I'm finished! Read it not long ago and just sort of enjoyed the hell out of it. Commence with the THOUGHTS, Nicole! 

Nicole: CUE THE (SPOILER-RIDDEN) THOUGHTS. I felt reading this similar to when I finished Catherynne Valente's DEATHLESS - I'm not sure if anybody here has read it, but it's an adult fantasy that pulls really heavily on Russian mythology and weaves it expertly through the story. The writing is beautiful, absolutely stunning. The couple are this disastrously cruel thing that would kill for each other and might end up killing each other. But for all I love the writing and all I love the couple, the plot fell apart for me near the end for almost the same reasons the plot fell apart for me in CRUEL BEAUTY - a huge time jump and time reversal where things were reversed and like they never happened. 

CRUEL BEAUTY doesn't have quite the same level of writing that Valente does, but it still has *words*, and I loved the style. I loved the world she built and I love, love, live, Ignyx (whose ship name is far easier to spell than the demon's individual name, which I still do not have memorized). But the plot lost me the moment they time jumped and skipped around, so even though I LOVED the couple and loved the world and the words and would read it again, I... didn't really love how it ended. Maybe I wish they had set up a potential time reversal earlier? The rest of it was all set-up well (not really well, but well enough) save for that. 

What did you think of it all, Angie? Ignyx is DEFINITELY high on my favorite YA ships list now. 

Angie: I haven't read DEATHLESS, but I love, I love, I love Nyx and Ignifex (IGNYX . . . hahaha) because they are not kidding with their anger and their hatred. She wants to freaking kill him. And he fully expects her to die trying. And they don't mean to love each other, but they just. can't. not. Because of the hatred and anger and awesomely fierce meeting of wills. I mean, the "Do you think you are safe with me?!" from both? I die. 

Angie: Stupid return key. I had heard going in that there was an element of forgetting that ruined it for some people. And honestly? I expected it to be a deal-breaker for me as well. But the two of them got their hooks into me before that element could come and tear it to shreds. There were parts where I could feel the underpinnings flirt with going all pear-shaped and the whole gorgeous Greek deck of cards collapsing on my head. It came *this* close coming on the end, but those last couple of pages worked for me. I wished the climax had been stronger, yes. But I smile every time I think of the very end.

Angie: Also, I kinda hated on Shade for most of the book. Perverse heart that I have. Just me?

Nicole: "Do you think you are safe with me" is a line that I never expected to make me swoon. And yet here we are. The ending definitely didn't kill the book, but characters FAR outdid plot here.

I was suspicious of Shade the entire time. His eyes were too perfectly blue and his smile too sincere for me to trust him.

Holly: Still waiting for a copy to come in at the library. Anyone have a copy to lend me (Angie)? I'm dying to get to it.
Angie: Holly, I do! Message me and I'll get it to you quick. Maureen, do you still need a copy as well? I could drop my ARC in the mail if it would be faster than the wait list . . .

Sya: I should probably start reading this.

Maureen: Angie yes I do. The wait lists look pretty grim. I'll message you my addresss

Sya: I love us and our collaborative emergency book sharing.

Donna: I will start reading it as soon as I pick it up from the library.

Donna: Yeah, I kind of read it... really quickly. Oops.

Chachic: I've read this too! I was thinking of rereading it for our discussion, I'll try and see if I can do that this weekend. Like Angie, the element of forgetting wasn't a deal-breaker for me. Would I have loved the story more if that element wasn't there at the ending? Yes. But it wasn't a big deal for me. I do agree with Nicole that the characters stood out more than the plot but again, that's something that I didn't mind. I'm more of a character reader anyway.

Wasn't a fan of Shade either.

Chachic: I'm going through the sections that I highlighted in my Kindle and I was reminded of how much I liked the library. Here's an excerpt:

"I remembered the hours I had spent in Father's library, drugging myself with books so I could forget my doom for an hour; how I had stared at the pictures and pressed my hand against the page, wishing I could vanish into the safe lines of a lithograph. Now I felt like I had done it, slipped into a picture or a dream: a place that was uncanny, but without any hidden horrors."

Drugging myself with books! Loved that bit.

Angie: Yes! And I loved his library so much. With the books she couldn't read at first. His whole creepy home, really (which totally reminded me of the Beast's home in Rose Daughter). But mystical, personified libraries FTW.

Nicole: I love strange magical homes that might kill you at any given moment - my goal in life is to make my future home look like it belongs to a witch - so I loved his home and the aerial garden and the wonderful wonderful library.

Laura: I'm reading this now (so I won't read your comments), but I'm also rereading Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas, which is a DIRTY BOOK WITH NAUGHTY BITS AND SEBASTIAN, LORD ST. VINCENT WHO I LOVE. And reading the two together, I can't help but think there ARE SO MANY MISSED OPPORTUNITIES in it wasn't, you know, YA....and essentially written for, you So in hindsight, this is NOT A GOOD COMBINATION. Very nice writing, no WORDS yet though, and the beginning WAS incredibly rushed but we're in the castle now, taking our clothes off and kissing demon ghosts and NONE OF THOSE THINGS ARE BAD.

Sya: I have finally started and Good God, the names. They sound like they should be patented by big pharma.

Nicole: Nyx's name is the only one I remember and the only one I can spell.

Angie: I love Nyx.

Donna: I need some Nyx Arstraia for my bought of Ignifex. It's horrible this time of year.

Donna: I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book and, CLUTCH YOUR PEARLS, LADIES, I'm not impressed. Super heavy on the exposition that made it a slog for the first half or so of the book and while I'm really trying to dig the more time-advanced Greco-Roman bag it's just not translating in my head, mainly because I think Nyx is dressing like something out of medieval scullery. Nyx falls heads over tits really quickly it seems like and while I thought the whole key scene in the library and the banter back and forth was humorous I'm just not digging the whole get-up. I keep thinking about Beauty and the Beast and how this could end and who Shade could end up being and OF COURSE Iggy Pop is going to be set free but I'm not the biggest fan of the whole antagonist relationship thing especially when, you know, Iggy Pop is a self-confessed murderer that acts the god and feels people deserve what they have coming for being, on some level, selfish and making brash assumptions about the people he dupes. Yeah, not digging it.

Nicole: I can understand that. I'm a sucker for reading about relationships where people spiral down this strange path of cruel love - hence the comparison to Valente's DEATHLESS - but I know it's not a relationship structure for everybody.

I do agree that she falls head over heels really fast - would have loved to see more of the push and pull rather than handing him his heart so early on in the story.

As for the exposition - I really, really didn't like that while I was reading it, but some of it was pretty enough that I could put aside my hatred of it. I think the reason I like the story so much wasn't the world but the twisted characters and their twisted relationship. It's definitely not everybody's cup of tea, though.

Laura: The come here come here come here, GET AWAY GET AWAY GET AWAY, I MIGHT WANT YOU, I CAN'T WANT YOU, I WON'T LET MYSELF WANT YOU thing is a bit played out....I'm on page like I don't's the scene where she's running through the wide open, under the blue skies with the demon lord and it's all so very the hills are alive with the sound of music AND NO ONE HAS TAKEN ALL THEIR CLOTHES OFF YET OR ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING. And IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE PRODUCTIVE YOU SHOULD AT LEAST GET LAID.
Nicole: "If you're not going to be productive, you should at least get laid" should be on a t-shirt somewhere.

Angie: You're off gallivanting with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent. What do you know, Laura?

Laura: Ok they finally did it so I suppose that's something. Sebastian did it better- that's what I know.

Sya: I am not trying very hard with this book. Just now I am visiting with my best friend and our priority is watching North and South again and drinking wine then on Monday I am off to Venice where my priority will be looking at things and drinking lots of wine. This book, which I find vaguely meh ANYWAY, doesn't really have much of a chance.

Nicole: I recently marathoned North and South with my friends and just swoon.

Maureen: Skipping over the other comments because I'm only on page 67 and spoilers, but I just wanna say: what's with our books and shitbag families lately? Astraia needs to be slapped once in the morning and once at night, and so do her father and aunt.

Laura: So I finished this silly little book. It was silly, but the ending was actually very redeeming. Lots of love and sacrifice and kindness and bargains and tricks and kisses. Very nicely done. I'm still sore about the insta-love/lust with THE DEMON LORD WHO HAD KILLED AND DESTROYED AND TORTURED FOR 900 YEARS. HE WAS THE BAD GUY RIGHT? Even though he wasn't to blame, she marries and goes to the house of the BAD GUY and wants to do him (and I'm not necessarily saying I'm against that, it's just a little out there). He wasn't very good at being a bad guy demon. She never feared him, she said she should a lot but she never did- probably because he was a sad sap from the start and you can't believe all that FEAR AND BADNESS when she instantly wants to DO HIM. But we've been over that. I think this book qualifies as good because it's a Beauty and the Beast story- not that it's necessarily a GOOD Beauty and the Beast story. The whole thing was rather meh, with far too much instalove and near instant change in a life long mind set AND NOT NEARLY ENOUGH SEX TO JUSTIFY ALL THAT FLIP FLOPPING.

Laura: Hereby motion to name King Richard Armitage the demon lord, not because it really fits (although, he'd look good in a cape, all in black with demon eyes), but because we have to place him in the story or the book gets A FULL FAIL, WITH NO OPPORTUNITY TO PASS GO OR COLLECT TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Laura: OK, so we're all pretty much on the same page about Shade. I didn't really like him. I think Iggy was a better catch on his own without having to absorb the loser to become whole. So her real-time husband is half suck. Should have stayed in the castle, doing it with the demon- which could have been the title of the spin off. Copyright. Trademarked. Own it.

Donna: Well Shade was supposed to be Iggy's shitastic piece of himself so that's no surprise. And good god, Nyx's views on love change on a freakin' dime. She's so schizophrenic with her feelings I got whiplash reading it all. And she really doesn't do much on her own until the very end when she saves the Gentle Lord, or whatever he's going by. The Demon Formerly Known as Ignifex? She's really shoved along in the story, working based off of someone else's will and is easily swayed to one side or another based on who she's talking to at the moment. Just adds to the whole whiplash thing. I have to say, though, I did like the reserve time thing. I felt it fit but I still have a bit of a disconnect between the Greco-Roman mythology and English fairy tales getting smooched together. Do we know where in Europe they're supposed to be? I just figured some island in the Greek Isles but with all the wood spirit lore going on it could rightly be some English isle too. I have no idea.

Nicole: I think that's why I didn't like the time jump - I couldn't understand the worldbuilding.

Maureen: Wow, there's a lot going on in this one. Beauty and the Beast, Persophone/Hades, a wee smidge of Tam Lin near the end. And the names were almost too clever: Night? Star . . . something? Igniter/Flame-lighter? I was waiting for Astraia to be the other half of Nyx like Shade was the other half of Iggy Pop (THANKS A LOT DONNA) and then she wasn't and I was like pft. I also felt like a lot of stuff that we got ladled with at the beginning didn't really follow through to the end so what was the point I would like to know. All my whinging aside, I did a certain amount of swooning. I didn't have the Shade-hate that you guys did but he did get boring about the time that Iggy Pop started to show something more than sociopathic sexiness. Give me a little deadly flirting over soulful eyes any day. HAWT. And I got the impression that Iggy was actually the "bad" side, not Shade.

Melissa: I finally got this from the library yesterday, but reading through your comments, I'm thinking I'm going to give this one a pass. Too many books and not enough time to spend it on something less than awesome. Plus I'm dealing with Dreams of Gods & Monsters withdrawal.

Donna: I want Dreams of Gods and Monsters in my face immediately. But Laini's coming to Phoenix ComiCon so I'm going to wait and get it signed by her so I can just about the other two and maybe cry a little.

Sya: I have given up on this book. Nyx annoys me. I am now reading We Were Liars instead. It's much better.

Nicole: Oooooo, I need to get a copy of that. I've only heard wonderful things.

Sya: It's quite exceptional.

Melissa: Oh yes, that one is amazing. Lockhart does wonderful things.

Holly: So I have FAILED. This book was my choice and I'm only a handful of pages in. Should I attempt to finish it tonight (or get far enough in to know if it's for me or not) or give up completely? It is so hard with DoGaM's calling me as well. AND I just picked up Sorrow's Knot.

Nicole: I always say get far enough in to decide for yourself, but if you really want to read other things, ditch it. Enjoy what you read!
Holly: I should also add that I'm not a big fan of the original Beauty and the Beast story. Or McKinley's Beauty - don't hate me for that. Now why would I pick this book...

Nicole: I have no idea.

Holly: I don't even understand what you're saying, Holly.

Holly: You know it's because of Laura's obscene Angieville stamp, right Nicole and Angie? Ok, ok. I'll give it a go. I'm not far enough in to decide for myself.

Chachic: I'm sorry I haven't been able to keep track of this thread! I've been traveling the last few days and I don't have reliable internet access all the time. It's very interesting how varied our reactions to this one are. I didn't really mind all the problems that you guys have mentioned and the book worked for me as a whole.

Chachic: Now I want to watch North and South again. If it was available on the long haul flight I was in, I would have watched it.

Chachic: Holly, try a few chapters and see if it's something that you can get into!

Holly: So I'm just a wee bit late but I finished it. On the bright side the warning about the exposition was helpful - I skimmed much of it. I think the combination of the elemental magic and Greco-Roman mythology made the worldbuilding over-complicated and confusing, especially considering how little was necessary to the plot. I was suspect of Shade from the beginning and hated the instalove but in the end I wasn't really sure if he was the "bad" half of the Prince, since as Laura pointed out, Ignifex had basically been murdering people for hundreds of years. What really kept me reading though wasn't the romance or the plot but the characters, particularly Nyx and her inner conflict of revenge v. forgiveness. I connected with her complex feelings and felt there was something really authentic there. She was flawed and completely accepting and unapologetic about it. I loved that.

Angie: Oh, I'm glad you liked it in the end, Holly. I knew it would be polarizing as I was reading it. But Nyx managed to become one of the Angry Girls I Love. And the final pages. They saved the whole book for me. Loved Nyx. Loved that she found a home after so long in his crazy dreamy castle. Loved the spiraling downward relationship and the way I believed it in the end.

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