• It's a gorgeously written blend of Beauty and the Beast retelling and Greek mythology. • It's at once a powerful, wonderful, heart-breaking love story and so so much more than that. • It's a dark tale that stabs you in the heart at every turn and constantly throws all new levels of craziness into the mix. • And it's the latest addition to my favourite YA of all time shelf.
Cruel Beauty shouldn't work. But somehow it does. It managed to have me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It shocked me. It creeped me out. I laughed. I cried. I'm still not sure I understand the ending but I am sure that it doesn't really matter. In short, I loved it. It was one of those rare books that literally glued my eyes to the page, had me devouring each sentence in a mad need to find out what the hell was going on and what would happen. It was a bizarrely beautiful little addiction and I only hope this signifies the start of a great year for young adult (after the last was so disappointing).
So... Nyx. The best books are held aloft by a great protagonist and Cruel Beauty is no exception. Nyx is exactly the kind of character I love. She's strong-willed, witty and brave. She's also angry, bitter and ferocious. She's lived her whole life being prepared as a weapon; and as a sacrifice. Her father made a deal with the Gentle Lord - the evil ruler of their kingdom - before Nyx and her twin sister were born. Their mother had been unable to conceive a child, so their father foolishly asked that the Lord grant them children and promised one of his daughters to the Lord in exchange. But he also lost his wife to childbirth in the bargain. The Gentle Lord's habit of cashing in double on his deals is well-known. Nyx, as the child her father loved less, has long-known her destiny to be the wife of the Gentle Lord. When the times comes, she goes with determination, fear and anger. She does not play by the Lord's rules. She is defiant. She tests his patience. I liked her instantly.
Then there is Ignifex, of course. The Lord that has terrorized their kingdom for centuries. The one who carries the blood of countless innocents on his hands. But, unsurprisingly, things are never quite that simple. What I liked best about Ignifex was his wicked sense of humour. There's nothing quite like a villain who is constantly witty and hilarious. The complex layers of each character in this book just blew my mind, no one is ever simple or cliche. The heroine does plenty of bad things and the evil villain... well, be careful you don't fall in love.
Cruel Beauty was just so unexpected. I thought I knew exactly what it was as soon as I glimpsed the cover, title and GR description. I thought I understood perfectly and I thought I'd probably read countless versions of the same book. How wrong I was. This is honestly quite unlike anything I've ever read before. I liked how everything about the book, the setting, the story and the characters was a bit like one of those Russian dolls. Something else within something else within something else. Then there's that whole haunting bittersweet tone that permeates this entire novel. I swear Ms Hodge has perfected the art of raising goosebumps with a perfectly-spun twist on an old Greek myth. And it just got better and better.
I think this review is more of an incoherent mess of feelings, so I'll stop now before the drooling starts. What I want to know is this: when is the author releasing another book?
Let me break down my thought process on this book from the very first time I noticed it on goodreads because somewhere alon...moreI am crazy minority lady :(
Let me break down my thought process on this book from the very first time I noticed it on goodreads because somewhere along the way something went really really wrong. Just a quick scroll down the GR page and I can see all my friends' ratings of five or four stars... but the attraction is lost on me.
1) The description appears on goodreads. We are promised science fiction and space and "a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain". A setting in space, a story of survival and a couple of horny teenagers? Sounds like it could be a wild ride. I don't know about you but I love space stories and the vast arena of possibility which they open. I've enjoyed everything from Revis's Across the Universe series to Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Because anything could happen. There's an extra layer of possibility to the fantasy that makes you wonder if it could be true because there are so many unexplored corners where our science fiction tales could very well be fact.
2) The cover reveal. Uh oh. And there it is. Not that I don't like the cover, I love myself some glitter and pretty dresses as much as the next magpie, but you can probably guess why my hopes started to crumble. I remember the first hardback edition of Shatter Me. Do you?
I'm dystopian, I swear! I'm big, I'm bad and... shit, I think I broke a nail. I remember how I told myself it would be fine. I mean, the description was promising hardcore dystopian fiction! It wouldn't lie to me, would it? Weeellll... I wrote a review about that.
3) The reviews start rolling in. It seems as though I was very wrong to judge this book by its cover. Reviews from some of my most trusty friends appeared and they LOVED this book. Is it even possible? Could I be completely wrong? I mean, Beth Revis's Across the Universe was all pink and twinkly and romance-like and I enjoyed that book. I must read it to find out!
4) I think I read the wrong book. I think we all know those moments when we've heard so many great things about a book and we pick up said book only to discover that the magic hasn't touched us. But I was really disappointed with These Broken Stars and should have listened to my instincts when I saw the pretty cover.
Most of the actual space action in this book happens in the first couple of chapters. After the two main characters - Lilac and Tarver - crash land on a planet, it becomes a long-winded trek through a jungle-like setting. I was disappointed to say goodbye to the sky and stars so soon but would have easily forgiven the book if I'd enjoyed the survival part of the story which followed. But, honestly, I found it painfully slow and boring. And all orchestrated around the romance.
This book is predominantly a romance. Description aside, survival/space parts aside, this book is about getting Lilac and Tarver together. Which may be exactly what you want. If you like your romance heavy and your action on the side, then pick this up. But it's not really my thing. And I got a distinct sense that everything in this book was built around the romantic aspect. Each scene felt deliberate in a way that would put the characters in such a situation that Tarver would have to save Lilac or they would have to remove their clothing or sleep huddled together. The action never felt real, it felt like a series of flirtations between the two teens. Finding new clothes is an excuse for Tarver to admire Lilac's body. A chilly night is an excuse for Tarver to sleep with his erection pressed against her ass.
But I think the most disappointing thing of all is the sheer lack of world-building. The setting of this novel is enormous and holds huge and fabulous opportunity - we're in a whole new part of the universe! And yet, there is almost zero world-building. I feel like I know nothing about the society that Lilac and Tarver come from. I appreciate that this is going to be a trilogy but, hell, give me something!
I think it's fair to say that These Broken Stars wasn't the book for me. Maybe I'll learn to follow my initial instincts about those jazzy covers in future.(less)
2.5 Goodreads members have differing opinions on what kind of rating is the hardest to write a review for. Some say it's the ones they didn't like - p...more 2.5 Goodreads members have differing opinions on what kind of rating is the hardest to write a review for. Some say it's the ones they didn't like - perhaps trying to keep a balance between their own subjective dislikes and the overall general standard of the book; some say it's the all time favourites - how can you put that kind of book love into words? For others, myself included, it's those annoying books that sit right in the middle. Those books that are okay. Fine. Overwhelmingly average. When they're neither bad nor good, what do I say? For me, The Falconer is one of those books. I feel like I've read this book about fifty times before (okay, five or six but shh...) and I feel like I've written this very same review that many times as well.
If you're new to fantasy, if you're new to faeries in fantasy, there's no real reason for you not to like this novel set in an alternative Edinburgh in the year 1844. It's a little tame for my liking, occasionally almost edging towards the middle grade end of the age range, but I'm sure newcomers to the genre will find it more entertaining. But all I can see are the same recycled features: a female warrior protagonist who's out for vengeance, an awkwardly forced romance, another love triangle, and a cliffhanger worthy of Moning's Fever series. In fact, this book feels like an amalgamation of several I've read before. It's like Shadow and Bone without the Darkling, Throne of Glass without the entertainment (or a fabulous sequel to make the first worth sitting through), and Darkfever without, like, everything I love about that series.
The writing is fairly good, though. With some more original material, I think I could find myself returning to see what the author writes in the future. I've just exhausted myself on this story line. But anyway. Here's what's happening in The Falconer: Lady Aileana Kameron is the daughter of the Marquess of Douglas in Scotland. She was blissfully enjoying upper class life and social events until a faery murdered her mother and she became a hunter. In secret, she slays faery after faery, hoping to one day come face to face with the faery who murdered her mother and quench the need for revenge that is burning inside her. On top of that, drama ensues when her father returns and demands she choose a husband. Other possible suitors aside, Aileana is torn between her fae ally - Kiaran - and her old crush - Gavin - who has recently returned to Edinburgh.
I will say that I'm glad the author included nasty, evil faeries. While there is obviously some faery romanticization with Kiaran, the faeries in this novel tend to be the vicious, blood-thirsty kind (perfect, in my opinion). But I think there is a lot of untapped potential in this story and a bit of tweaking could have made it a more original and engaging tale. For one thing, it actually took me a while to realise that this is supposed to be a steampunk novel, those elements of it were so subtle that I didn't even notice them at first. I'm really enthusiastic about the new steampunk genre because it combines so many different things that I love, but I find myself being frequently disappointed by the lack of it in books that promise so much. Don't be afraid to go all out, I say! I want machines! I want old times! I want that magical blend of science fiction and historical! ...please?
Afterthought: I compared this book to many others and I remember noting to myself several times that it seemed loosely similar to the Fever series. But Khanh did a fantastic (and shocking) breakdown of the similarities between this and Faefever in her review. Wow. Enough said.(less)