Reading Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge was one of the strangest reading experiences I have ever had. I knew I would really struggle to write a review of the book as I was reading it because I knew I’d never be able to fully remember or encapsulate just how weird and confused it made me throughout my reading experience. For that reason, about a third into the story, I decided to start making notes about what I was thinking and feeling as I read, and these are the notes I will present to you as my “review” of sorts. I have to say, I am still 100% confused by this novel because I don’t at all know how to make sense of the plot or the characters or any of it. I am not at all confident in my rating (which you’ll find at the end of this review) because in all likelihood it was heavily influenced by how emotional the ending of the story was and doesn’t take into account how bland and utterly confounding parts of the plot were. But, that being said, I think the purpose of reading is to challenge oneself, and this novel was undoubtedly a challenging one because it forced me to consider what elements I believe make for a great story. Is it a complex plot, or can those sometimes become too ambitious and convoluted? Is it complicated characters, or can they sometimes tend toward hypocrisy and create frustration? Is it a romance that is all encompassing, or can those sometimes become over-the-top and melodramatic? Is it an ending that leaves you raw and uncertain? I can’t say I know any of the answers to those questions, but Cruel Beauty most certainly has all of those things – it was at once vast and overly ambitious, beautiful and annoying. It is a contradiction in so many ways…and yet…I didn’t hate it…or at least, I don’t think I did.
My Thoughts As I Read
As of pg. 125
– Nyx’s internal monologue is grating because her character is not complex enough. She ruminates on the same issues over and over (very redundant!), for example hating her sister and father and aunt and lusting after Shade. However, her monologue never actually leads her anywhere!
– The writing style seems all over the place and is disorienting. Some aspects of the plot are poorly explained, for example the concept of Hermetics and the demons and why the sky is paper… Huh?!
– I really like Ignifex BUT there isn’t enough of him so far! I find Shade boring so I want more Ignifex!
– So far, this is at 3 stars for me = no emotional connection or investment on my part yet, but I am still hopeful and intrigued.
– Things I want to learn more about at this point in the novel: 1) Ignifex’s bargains; 2) Ignifex’s past lives; 3) demon lore/explanation of when Ignifex came into power to be more fleshed out
As of pg. 144
– Although the “final prince” storyline is not very fleshed out and not at all well explained, I am so curious in spite of myself!
pg. 164: Literally within the span of one page, Nyx talks about hating and loving Astraia. Just when you think she is growing, either for good or evil, she backtracks. ANNOYING!
– Then an allusion to Ignifex’s masters that gets dropped…when do things come together?
* I will say, Hodge paints the rooms well, like the dripping wet library…BUT her references to mythology are too frequent, jarring and heavy handed.
* I feel like Hodge has a lot of good and intriguing ideas BUT she tries to cram too many of them into one book and it makes the plot feel heavy and cumbersome.
– I will say, I do love how Ignifex talks. I do feel that he has a distinct voice. He is unique from any main male characters I’ve encountered in a while; weirdly, he reminds me both of Josh from The Hating Game and Rhysand from ACOTAR…but he still isn’t quite as intriguing as either of them!
– Finally, a moment that had me slightly breathless and emotional, when Nyx and Ignifex were under the true sky, lying together in the grass, I’m a sucker for simple romance!
pg. 192: Oh lord, Nyx’s internal monogue is sooo repetitive!
As of pg. 238
– Things are finally getting A LOT more interesting. Codes are being cracked and lore is being explained. A romance is blossoming! This is what I wanted from page one…but is it too little, too late?
~ “And I was his delight and he was mine.” ~
– VERY reminiscent of Jane Eyre.
– I’ve read reviews that say that Nyx and Ignifex’s banter gets less witty and entertaining as they fall in love, and with that I must agree. What a shame!
As of pg. 269
– I like Astraia way better than Nyx actually! At least she has conviction and is more of a fighter. Honestly, I am 100% more intrigued now than I have been at any point before this.
– Nyx is so confusing! She will always love Ignifex and yet she is resigned to hurting him…but her mind flip-flops so easily and constantly. CHOOSE ONE THING AND JUST STICK TO IT! It is hard to keep up with her!
As of pg. 300
– I still feel like I barely understand who the Children of Typhon and the Kindly Ones are. I feel like everything will remain unexplained.
~ “I kissed him back like he was my only hope of breathing.” ~
– Okay, that quote is a good one!
WOAH! This ending is actually breaking my heart because I hate it when a lover loses her memory and is separated from her beloved! Could this redeem the whole story?
As of The End
– Okay, WOW! That ending was gorgeous and haunting and heart wrenching and dark and convoluted yet so simple. It sort of made the whole messed up story worthwhile because it was strangely beautiful and moving, that image of love holding on for dear life. I think it redeemed the whole novel for me. Wow! The most confusing reading experience I have ever had!
❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)
How do you even make sense of that? Like, do those notes even make any sort of sense? I have no idea! Truly, this book is just so utterly baffling – if I think too much about it and try to sort my feelings out, I think I might go crazy. I think this book is designed to make you go crazy as a reader – it’s like, you know that movie Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise that literally made no sense but was oddly brilliant and impossible to look away from? Yeah, that’s the film equivalent of Cruel Beauty. It was like impossible to decipher but impossible not to want to.
ARGH! I. Just. Do. Not. Know. *siiiiiigh*
Girl with a Green Heart