My initial rating for this book was four stars. I knocked it off to three after reading the author's following book, Crimson Bound, not because CRUELMy initial rating for this book was four stars. I knocked it off to three after reading the author's following book, Crimson Bound, not because CRUEL BEAUTY had somewhat dimished in my eyes, but because I found CRIMSON BOUND so much better that I had to take that into consideration in the two novels' respective ratings. I actually think that this is a compliment to Rosamund Hodge, who showed great progress in her storytelling abilities from one book to the next, creating both a much complex plot and a more diverse cast.
CRIMSON BOUND is better than CRUEL BEAUTY in all aspects but one. In BEAUTY the passion between the two main characters grows on you as it does between them and by the final showdown I felt it almost leaping off the page.
CRUEL BEAUTY is by no means a masterpiece. The plot is rather weak in general, and definitely cringe-worthy at times. The cast of characters is very small, and most of them don't feel sufficiently fleshed out. I also had little patience with Shade throughout the whole thing. But considering CRUEL BEAUTY is not a pretentious novel in the least, but simply something meant to entertain, I felt like the curious worldbuilding (part fairytale, part mythology) and the two main characters (Nyx and Ignifex) made up for most of it. I loved Nyx's voice throughout the whole book, and I loved her twisted feelings for her family, her world, and her destiny. Hers is ultimately a love story, but her journey to her (maybe) happily ever after is filled with much more personality and background than your usual YA fare, and that was a refreshig novelty. As for Ignifex, I can hardly ever resist the charms of fictional Dark Lords, especially if they deal primarily on bargains. I love tales about fairy bargains. It might be professional quirk (I'm a lawyer, after all). My inexplicable infatuation with Robert Carlyle (and, by extension OUAT's Rumplestiltskin) might also have something to do with it.
Overall, I was thoroughly entertained by CRUEL BEAUTY, I really enjoyed CRIMSON BOUND and I can't wait for more books by Rosamund Hodge....more
I really enjoyed the rich storytelling, the love and effort the author put into creating interesting, well-rounded chaThis book was good. Really good.
I really enjoyed the rich storytelling, the love and effort the author put into creating interesting, well-rounded characters and beautiful sceneries, not to mention the great world-building with regards to Eretz, and the gift that is the Prague setting.
Karou is a wonderful protagonist. Vibrant and full of life, with the head in our world and her feet in Elsewhere. She is extremely relatable, without being the empty shell cheap YA authors tend to gravitate towards. In a word, she's interesting. And kind. And compassionate. And fun. Akiva is gorgeous and... well, not much more, really. He's not as well-crafted as Karou, for sure, but then again his story carries sufficient depth as to pass muster, in my opinion. He does lurk outside Karou's window while she sleeps, which is always a no-no, but I don't find him even half as bad as most YA heartthrobs. He's a man shaped by war, who found love and pursued it, only to be torn down from his dreamland and come crashing down in the worst possible way. His characterization is weaker than Karou, but it works, in contest. She's our protagonist, so far, and she's the one the reader is supposed to get invested in. This is the first book in a trilogy, and given the talent Taylor showed in this first installment, there is every reason to hope that the story will progress in such a way as to give Akiva space to shine much more.
All this considered, this book could be well worth four stars, with following books maybe aiming at five. If it wasn't for the abrupt ending. I get it, trilogies are all the rage now, and authors and publishers want to milk those cows for all their worth. But this is no way to treat a story and no way to treat the readers. This novel begins telling a very compelling story of life, love, war, and dreams, but it never comes full circle. Karou's story begins, grows and intertwines with Akiva's, Madrigal's, Eretz'... and then seemingly goes on a commercial break. One moment you're in the story, then Akiva goes all in on Karou and the book is over. Find out how the story continues in another book. No. Series are supposed to be a string of interconnected stories. A way to tell a much wider story, by going over and beyond the one told in the first book. But this should still translate to full stories of their own, which only gather further richness and depth by standing together. Sure, by the end of the story Karou has managed to find out who she is and where she comes from. But the story arc portrayed in this book is no arc at all. It lacks completion. I understand wanting to end on a cliffhanger, or at least in a way that leaves the readers wanting more, but a novel, especially the first novel in a series of any kind, must be able to stand on its own two feet. This one, unfortunately, doesn't.
This book just feels like a part of a whole and not it's own work, and it's a shame. My advice is that you don't read it until you have the rest of the trilogy available to you, because there's every chance that the second book will also end in a similar fashion.
On the other hand, I'd like to end this review with my favorite passage from the book.
“Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and… cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust.”
A very nice glimpse into Jessica and Lucius' romance, before we plunge into Jessica's new vampire life.
I still can't help but compare this to TWILIGHTA very nice glimpse into Jessica and Lucius' romance, before we plunge into Jessica's new vampire life.
I still can't help but compare this to TWILIGHT: how great to finally see a heroin fully in control of her worth and looks, aware of her partner's love and awed, yet not surprised, that he should be attracted to her as much as she's attracted to him. And how refreshing to see a girl in love, prepared to spend eternity with her man, being actually happy at his marriage proposal.
Enduring the Fifty Shades trilogy was such a depressing experience that I felt a compelling need to go back to a real tale of kinky sex and true love.Enduring the Fifty Shades trilogy was such a depressing experience that I felt a compelling need to go back to a real tale of kinky sex and true love... And what's more a tale of history, politics, intrigue, adventure, invasion, sword-fights, and revels, masterfully crafted and beautifully told.
I shall therefore re-read KUSHIEL'S DART to my heart's contentment....more