When I downloaded the eBook preview from Barnes and Nobles' website, I had no idea what lay in store for me. The cover caught my attention first, and...moreWhen I downloaded the eBook preview from Barnes and Nobles' website, I had no idea what lay in store for me. The cover caught my attention first, and I must commend the artist Erin Fitzsimmons for the beautiful design. I knew right away what was in store for me before reading any story summaries or reviews purely because of the cover art. I was very excited to read a reinterpretation of my all time favorite fairy tale-- Beauty and the Beast! Unfortunately, I was disappointed that this was categorized as a young adult book because I didn't expect it to live up to the standards of the adult fantasy that I usually read. Then, I read the first lines of the book, and my heart dropped even more. It was written from the first person perspective, and I cannot stand that point of view purely because most authors do not write well in the first person. In the end, I didn't expect much as I scrolled through the e-pages on my cell phone while my baby snuggled against me for a nap. I am happy to report, though, that all my fears and misgivings were dead wrong!
Rosamund Hodge is a talented storyteller! I am shocked that this is her first book because with creativity such as hers she should have a slew of books under her writing belt. She writes like a seasoned veteran who's written for years! From the setting to the mythology to the characters and plot, every element in this book was crafted with careful detail that kept me on the edge of my seat by the end of the eBook preview. I just had to check out the rest of the book to see if it lived up to the potential hinted at in the preview.
I was number one on the waiting list at the Goleta library as they processed the new book into the system. It was an honor to be the first person from the Santa Barbara library system to read Cruel Beauty.
The setting takes place in a kingdom called Arcadia, but most of the action takes place in the Gentle Lord's fantastical castle that overlooks the town. No door opens to the same room twice. There is a frozen lake of water, a parchment sky, a garden in the air, and many more exciting places to visit when you read this novel. The descriptions created a vivid picture in my mind of a fantasy world where demons terrorized humans trying to live their ordinary lives. Hodge mixed in mythology and lore into the setting through specific rituals that the townsfolk practices as they honored their gods. Stories about Tom-a-Lone, Nanny-Anna, and the Kindly Ones are sprinkled throughout the pages of the book. I especially liked the hedge god that Nyx befriends in the Gentle Lord's castle--a little bird who she offers bread crumbs to. I couldn't imagine the character Nyx, our heroine and protagonist, living in any other setting.
The characters felt real. Nyx was someone that any person could relate to as they read the book. She desperately seeks love from her family, and the only person who gives her love, her twin sister Astraia, she hates with a passion. Nyx is the duty-bound daughter who must sacrifice herself to the Gentle Lord in order to stop the demons who destroy the minds and bodies of the various townsfolk. Her sister, however, is beloved and gets to live and marry whoever she wants. This real relationship that consists of a myriad of emotions that range from love and hate, anger and jealously, betrayal and forgiveness makes the characters that much more relatable for readers. Nyx is not the perfect heroine. She is not the perfect sister, daughter, or, later, wife. She has flaws and a deep anger that eats away at her soul. Ironically, it is through her interactions with the Gentle Lord that she learns to let go of her anger, or at least most of it, and finally open up to loving her sister.
The Gentle Lord, Ignifex, is a great counter part to Nyx. He is more like her than she realizes when she enters his castle. He is dark, brooding, and the perfect beast to her beauty. How much of a villain he really is can only be discovered if you open the book to read it as I do not want to spoil Cruel Beauty for new readers. I guarantee that you will love him as well as his mysterious slave Shade. I will offer you a bargain you cannot resist if you only read the first chapter. ;-)
The supporting characters are a little less exciting, but that is to be expected as the story of Beauty and the Beast is really about a woman falling in love with a beast. You will either hate the father and the aunt, and various other names that are dropped throughout the book, or you will ignore them as you eagerly anticipate more about Nyx and Ignifex. I know I raced through many sections to get to these two characters interactions. As I glance through the pages of the book again, I am excited to see that secrets about other characters still lie in wait with another reading of the book. For example, Adamastos is mentioned in the first chapter of the novel, and Hodge does not forget him or his tale. He makes an appearance again at the end of the book that will leave you with a quirky smile on your face.
The plot of Cruel Beauty is nothing like I imagined it would be. There are so many twists and turns that you are likely to get lost as if you were the one wandering the Gentle Lord's castle and not Nyx. I know I had to slow down at numerous spots in order to more accurately guess the mini mysteries in the novel and, eventually, the larger mystery that is the central crux of the plot. I was so excited when I got to the end and guessed correctly! This novel is definitely not your Disney Beauty and the Beast copycat. It is dark, and, as you read, you quickly realize that "happily ever after" does not exist in the kingdom of Arcadia. What's a girl like Nyx to do? No wonder she is so angry and spiteful! If I grew up with the knowledge that I was to die at the tender age of seventeen, I would be rather pissed off too. So, if you are looking for a lovey dovey Beauty and the Beast retelling, steer clear. If you want something that is truly unique and different, with a mix of mythology that I desperately want to go research now, this is the novel for you!
Hodge mentions in her acknowledgements at the end of the novel that she was inspired by T.S. Elliot and C.S. Lewis, so if you are fans of these authors, you will probably enjoy the novel, especially if you liked Elliot's Four Quartets or Lewis's Till We Have Faces. Both works had a deeply profound impact on her writing. She hints that there are references to both pieces in Cruel Beauty. Overall, the novel will keep you on edge, and, if you have the time, you can probably finish reading it in a day or two. Yes, it's that good!
The tone is dark, but there are happy moments. There are also some intimate moments between characters, but all sexual activities are implied rather than described. They take place "off stage." This is perfect for a younger audience. It is nice to leave some things to our imagination rather than exposing it in too vivid descriptions.
In the end, I am truly happy that I found this precious jewel, and I hope to purchase a copy of this book in the near future. I would enjoy to reread it if only to see what nuances that I missed in my rather hurried first reading. My favorite parts were always the diatribes between Nyx and Ignifex. The two characters complement each other so nicely, and I found myself cheering them both on as they learn to give rather than take from each other. The ending was a special surprise as well. I did not see the final twist even though I did guess the larger mystery before the final chapters. This is a book that can make any young person, or adult for that matter, fall in love with reading. I highly recommend it for anyone that loves fantasy, mythology, fairy tales, and a strong female lead.
I commend you, Rosamund Hodge, for writing such an amazing piece of literature. Your words and perseverance inspire me that someday I too can write something of a similar caliber. Well done! I look forward to your next novels!(less)
When I saw this manga at the library, I got excited because the back cover read:
A liberal adaptation of the movie by the same name, Revolutionary Gir...moreWhen I saw this manga at the library, I got excited because the back cover read:
A liberal adaptation of the movie by the same name, Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Adolescence of Utena veers wildly from its original source. More direct than the anime and more mature than the original manga series, this version of Chiho Saito's fractured fairy tale blasts Utena straight into iconic stratosphere.
What was promised by the back cover was definitely delivered. I have been a fan of Utena since my Sailor Moon days, and this manga reminded me of why I fell in love with the anime in the first place.
It is difficult to write this review without giving away any of the plot twists from the manga. Certain relationships are illuminated in more detail than what you might remember from the anime and the manga series, such as Utena, Anthy, Anthy's brother, and Touga. Other relationships and duels are glossed over, such as Juri, Mickey, Saionji, and Utena's friend Wakaba. Even the cute mouse Chu is nonexistent until the final three pages of the manga. However, I can understand why certain plot points are glossed over as this book is simply 181 pages-- there is only so much that can be jammed into its depths.
I was still a little confused by Anthy's role as the rose bride. Why roses? Why this title? Why not rose princess? Maybe a closer reading of this manga with the anime and original manga series would answer some of my questions.
Fans and even new Utena readers will be delighted by the themes of love, friendship, death, betrayal, forgiveness, and freedom as illusion and reality collide in the world of Ohtori Academy. There is violence, nudity, and sex, so younger or more immature readers might do best to steer clear if they are uncomfortable with this type of content.
There are some themes that might not be very popular with some readers, exemplified by the following quote-- Memory will hold you here, unable to move on. Don't cling to love. After reading this manga, though, you will understand better why Utena must face the hard task implied by these quotes. Otherwise, she will never truly live.
I was a little disappointed with the ending simply because I did not want the story to finish. I was sad by what Utena had to do with Touga as I have always been a fan of them being a couple. Anyone who loves Touga will be happy to know that there are many scenes when he is not wearing a shirt-- sexy! ;)
As always, the artwork is impeccable and beautiful! I find myself mesmerized by the people--their expressions of love, agony, laughter-it all feels very real! I can really relate to the difficulties that Utena encounters and her desire to become a prince because both the writing and the images are well-crafted. They draw the reader into the story.
To all the little girls, or even older women, who want princes to rescue them: Utena is a reminder that we do not need princes. We do not need to wait for someone to rescue us as we can rescue ourselves and be our own princes! And we are more badass for it!
Let's revolutionize the world! I am proud to say that I am a prince and a princess--why not be both? :D And, as Utena says, ...I have to do the best I can to live my life... Unlike her, though, I do my best to live my life not only for myself but for my daughter--who I hope sees her strong and loving mother for who I am.(less)