Julie Davis's Reviews > Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
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's review
Feb 09, 2014

it was amazing
Read in February, 2014

I was raised to marry a monster.
How's that for a first line?

From that moment we are immersed in a world which has been ripped out of time, suffering a curse which Nyx has been pledged from birth to try to break by marriage to the demon lord Ignifex. When she finds Ignifex is not simply what he seems on the surface, she is torn between her vow to her people and her love for a complex person. And in this world the Greek gods punish vow-breaking with a vengeance, so this is a serious problem.

I read this book faster and faster so that by the end I knew I was heedlessly missing details. But the plot was the thing that kept me reading until midnight two nights in a row. This is a romance and it's a good one. After all it is based on Beauty and the Beast, albeit very loosely. However, the author tells it with a freshness and immediacy that makes me think of Robin Mckinley's The Blue Sword, which is some of my highest praise.

I am amazed this is a first book. Hodge took the Beauty and the Beast story and mixed it up with Greek mythology and a few other classics that I won't mention here for fear of spoilers. The result is a completely new soup* that doesn't seem derivative in any way. It is complex, compelling, and Tolkien-esque in the way big themes and truths are woven seamlessly into the story. It is C.S. Lewis-ian (is that a term?) in the way that source materials are woven seamlessly into a completely new story a la Til We Had Faces (yet so much more understandable to a schmoe like me.).

It is not without flaws, but they are few and forgivable as quirks. They are fairly minor and annoy no more than a few gnats so I'll not go into detail about them.

Above all I was struck by the underlying themes of the masks we hide behind, the real meaning of love, the many forms selfishness can take, the value of intention in sacrifice, the price of trying to control fate, and the fact everyone has more layers than you can see at first glance.

Cruel Beauty is being marketed as a YA novel and it fulfills those requirements in that I'd let my 9th grader read it if I still had one around the house. However, I miss the days when there was no YA designation and one could pick it up, as I did The Blue Sword long ago, without the preconceptions of a label. This is a story that adults can definitely enjoy. Be not afraid.

This book is a masterpiece and should become a classic. Certainly it is one I will be rereading more than once. I want to shove it into everyone's hands and force them to read it so we can talk about it.

Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

1. This is a review copy and I'm friends with the author's brother and sister-in-law. Believe me, that all made me rather leery than inclined to shove this book into everyone's hands. This "shove-this-book-into-everyone's-hands" review is my honest opinion.

2. I've been asked if guys would like this book. I asked the author's brother who is not prone to read "girly books" and you may read his answer in the comments for his review at Goodreads.

3. Catholics will be happy to note that I used Tolkien-esque deliberately. Everything Hodge has here is solidly Catholic in basic worldview, despite the fact that the only gods mentioned are pagan. Which is as it should be. The story is the thing. The solid values that are the bones of this soup* give it depth and savor, but do not intrude upon a fine tale.

From Tolkien's essay On Fairy-Stories.
In Dasent's words I would say: “We must be satisfied with the soup that is set before us, and not desire to see the bones of the ox out of which it has been boiled.” Though, oddly enough, Dasent by “the soup” meant a mishmash of bogus pre-history founded on the early surmises of Comparative Philology; and by “desire to see the bones” he meant a demand to see the workings and the proofs that led to these theories. By “the soup” I mean the story as it is served up by its author or teller, and by “the bones” its sources or material—even when (by rare luck) those can be with certainty discovered. But I do not, of course, forbid criticism of the soup as soup.

Emphasis mine. Everyone leaves that bit off and I always feel I can see Tolkien smiling as he wrote it.
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Reading Progress

02/09/2014 marked as: to-read
02/12/2014 marked as: currently-reading
02/12/2014 page 144
40.0% "Wow.

This is Robin McKinley good.

Not recent, blabbing, can't get her characters to shut up Robin McKinley.

The Blue Sword good.

I can't wait to finish this so I can begin pushing it on all the adolescent girls I know. Grown-up girls? Begin reading now.

Way to take the Beauty and the Beast story, mix it up with Greek mythology, and make a completely new soup*. More raving" 4 comments
02/14/2014 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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CatholicBibliophagist Cruel Beauty has elements that I normally don't care for -- but in this novel they work, and I love them! (Won't say any more because I don't want to give away any spoilers.)


Julie Davis CatholicBibliophagist wrote: "Cruel Beauty has elements that I normally don't care for -- but in this novel they work, and I love them! (Won't say any more because I don't want to give away any spoilers.)


Interest even more piqued! :-)

Fonch Dear Mrs Julie, i send a big hug from Spain. I am very happy that you recomended a book to me. I miss you very much Mrs. Julie, and i expected that we can speak about more books, nowadays i am reading Farewell Great King a novel was written by Jill Paton Walsh who finished the last novel of the famous detective Peter Wimsey was created Dorothy L. Sayers. Respected Cruel Beauty i was expected a Catholic Epic Fantasy Novel. This a genre tio the catholic has in my opinion a disadavantage with the protestant, who develop more. We will have to explore more, my hope it was that Michael D. O`Brien who was written Voyage to Alpha Centauri wrote epic novel. I believe that he has capacity to write epic fantasy of quality. Until this day arrive i am happy that appear new author, i expected that Cruel Beauty arrive to Spain very early, i can read it, sincerely yours Fonch.

Julie Davis Hi Fonch! Big hugs to you!

This is by a Catholic author but it is not a Catholic novel. It is straight up fantasy, except as the author's underlying worldview informs her writing (as with J.R.R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings).

Michael O'Brien ... so many people love his books and I have tried several but I just don't like his style. :-)

Fonch Precisely Mrs Julie this is the thing who angry to me, that the catholic we do not write more epic fantasy style Tolkien, unfortunatelly the protestant take advantage in this field, i would like some catholic author assumed the challenge and wrote catholic epic fantasy, in my opinion i believed that Michael D. O`Brien could do it, but if there was other, i would like know to him/her. I am hungry of this kind of stories like C.S. Lewis :-).

Fonch Respected Michael D. O`Brien is interesting because he theorized about the actual epic fantasy in his book A Landscapes with Dragons for these reason i would like seeing to write a novel of this characteristic or pattern.

CatholicBibliophagist I just wanted to mention that a Spanish translation of Cruel Beauty is going to be published in Spain by Ediciones Kiwi.

Julie Davis CatholicBibliophagist wrote: "I just wanted to mention that a Spanish translation of Cruel Beauty is going to be published in Spain by Ediciones Kiwi."

Good news for Fonch! :-)

Fonch It is the good of having american friends that one person discover a lot of things including of my country i do not know this publisher, but now i am going to look for more information about the publisher Kiwi. It is curious that i have not heard about this publisher, because i am usually interesting in knowing publisher.

Fonch Now i understand, because i have never heard something about this publisher, the genre of romantic youth in which is espicialist Kiwi, it is not y favorite genre, for this reason i have not heard about publisher Kiwi, with all. This publisher has a lot followers in Twitter 2000 followers. This fact do to me that i want to read Cruel Beauty, my whish to read the best catholic novelist of the world is stronger, besides i like very much Jane Austen, and Jane Eyre, (the rest of the narrative of Charlotte Brontë is less quality than Jane Eyre). Besides if the novel of your friend is good i pass to my sister, who enjoy very much reading romantic novels, and youth novels, who like Twilight and other kind of novels like Gabriel Inferno, it would be useful to read this kind of books. Besides in spite of friendship discussion with Julie Davis i trust very much in her, and her wisdam judge in books. I still convince read Joseph Pearce.

Julie Davis Fonch wrote: "Now i understand, because i have never heard something about this publisher, the genre of romantic youth in which is espicialist Kiwi, it is not y favorite genre, for this reason i have not heard a..."
I think your sister would love this book. Harper Collins is a big publisher in this country and that's who brought this book out here. They are giving it a lot of publicity, which I feel is a good thing. I've read enough Joseph Pearce to know that I'm not going to like his books unless he changes his style, but I have many friends who like him very much.

Fonch Respect Pearce the eternal friendship discussion :-). I like very much the Joseph Pearce`s but there is not the case. Really i do not ask for, that you read Joseph Pearce, only one book, that in my personal opinion is essential that all catholic writer would have to read https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ,although you dislike the Pearce style, it is for the quantity of catholic writers that you know reading this book. I expect Mrs Julie that you give a chance, or oportunity to this book, equal that in the case of Louis de Wohl you will say thank you, when you read i am totally sure. But speaking about Cruel Beauty, i want to say my book shop assistant that i want this book, respect my sister at the moment pass through an angry moment, i wait the good moment to recomend this book. Respect Rosamund Hodge, that she is a good catholic writer, i will have to suggest that she was my friend in Goodreads. Like a catholic writers collector, i can not let the chance pass for the gate of my house.

Julie Davis I tried that book, Fonch, when it came out. Didn't disagree with Pearce ... possibly because I found it so deadly dull that I couldn't make myself read it. :-)

Fonch Well i feel comfort that at least you consider bored it had been worse than you disagreed with him. Read this although you did not like i am sure that you find useful things, some day you said to me thank you Fonch for advising this book :-).

Julie Davis I think in this case when I don't respond to comments recommending Joseph Pearce any more, you will understand. You notice I don't bring up Samuel Shellabarger to you any more because I understand that people have different tastes or likes/dislikes. And I respect that. :-)

Fonch Mrs. Julie i trust to you, and i read the Captain of Castille, even i qualified with a good grade four stars. Well it is not my favorite book, but it is not bad. Please trust a bit in me, remind that i advise with other friends Louis de Wohl, and you recognized that the Quiet Light was an excellent book, the same opinion i have about https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... This book helpto you to know one of the best English catholic authors. You can taste, if i am wrong i recognized my wrong, but if you like you will find a decisive book in your life :-).

Fonch Ah i am going to recomend to these book Cruel beauty to my friend the writer Krisi Keley if you do not mind I wish some day you met, i spoke with her about books. I expect that you are good i have a violent backache :-).

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