Friday, February 28, 2014

Cruel, but Not Quite Beautiful

The tale of Beauty and the Beast is one we all recognize. It has been told, retold, reworked, and completely reimagined. Rosamund Hodge decided to reimagine a classic in a way that makes a world-known story completely unique in Cruel Beauty

Nyx was told her purpose at the age of nine. She was to marry the Gentle Lord and then kill him. Killing him would avenge her mother's death and release the curse upon Arcadia. The demons that drive people to madness would retreat, and they could live again. They could be whole again. She should have accepted her sacrifice gracefully, but she always resented her sister for being the protected twin. Meanwhile, Nyx watched her father and aunt grow closer, watched her optimistic sister swear Nyx would be successful and then return to them, and watched her 17th birthday grow closer. 

When she is finally wed to the lord, who never leaves his castle, she enters the building ready to follow through with her purpose. Unfortunately, the lord is two steps ahead of her and disarms her. Then he promptly warns her not to start roaming around the castle at will. Certain rooms are permitted, but the remainder of the castle is off-limits. Never one to listen to what people tell her to do, Nyx starts her search to find the four Hermetic Hearts that will help her control the magic. In her journeys, she realizes the lord's servant, Shade, is more than mere shadows and demon, he is trapped in the castle just as she is, and she vows to release him as well when she kills the Gentle Lord. Nyx was raised for this purpose, but there is much she doesn't know about the world she lives in. 

Well, this was certainly a different twist on the old Beauty and the Beast story, that's for sure. Unfortunately, I am not sure I really liked it. The connection to the fairy tale is minimal at best, which would have been fine, but the story was incredibly confusing. I just didn't know what was really happening a lot of the time. And the ending totally confused me, on top of the fact it was really rushed. The whole story was just so complex and confusing, I really struggled with it. I don't think I would give this story to many of my students- maybe only those incredibly strong readers who love Lord of the Rings and other complex story lines. 

One thing I did love was Nyx. All too often we read those stories about a girl forced into these situations who just accepts her fate, no matter how miserable and outrageous it might be. Not Nyx! She rages against her aunt, her father, even her sister, who she can't seem to reconcile her love for with her jealousy over. I liked the fact that Nyx knew this was bogus and wasn't afraid to play with the emotions of those she felt were responsible for her horribly unjust future. I liked that she was a girl who wasn't afraid to fight back and wanted to find the answer at all costs. I think Nyx is the redeeming factor of this story. Still, it was so incredibly confusing at times (not all the time!) that I just lost interest and had to force myself to keep going. Even my love for Nyx couldn't pull me back in. That made it a tough story for me to finish, let alone like!

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