Rating: 2 stars
Source: Listened to Audiobook via Audible
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.
With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.
As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love."
Review: I honestly can't tell how much my low rating has to do with the story itself and how much it has to do with the narrator, who I found to be extremely and irritatingly melodramatic. They are both to blame in some regard, however, so I'll mete my criticism on both.
First, the story.
So, this Beauty and the Beast retelling should have been an easy win for me. I love fairy tale retellings, and Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites. Nyx was a difficult and conflicted protagonist, the villain is not what he seems, and several of the plot twists were unexpected, so there was a lot there that could have been great. But, for me, it just wasn't.
The biggest problem for me was the inclusion of Greek mythology. Nyx and her kingdom have every appearance of medieval France: I could easily picture the thatched roofs and surrounding forest, the foreboding castle in the distance. The village square is reminiscent of the classic Disney movie, and so the mentions of Zeus and Hera were jarring and uncomfortable. They didn't fit with the rest of the picture. Maybe this was supposed to be medieval Greece instead? If so, I'd buy it, if there were other things in the story to hint at that kind of setting. At it is, the mash up between Greek mythology and Ignifex's castle is just confusing.
Other things that are confusing: Why Ignifex wanted a bride? Who exactly Ignifex's masters are? What Ignifex's keys are for? What Ignifex wants? Why Shade can talk once he is kissed, but not before? What in the world the bloody hermetic lamps and signs and hearts were for, how they worked, and what their purpose was? What the kindly ones wanted, and how they were related to the rest of the mythology??
This book is certainly complicated, and usually I love a good, complicated book. But its logic didn't make sense to me, and so I found myself becoming increasingly irritated as the book went on. The ending was at least unpredictable, but by the time that twist came I was too disillusioned to care.
But the biggest problem of them all was the narrator.
I'm not a big book-on-tape gal. This is the first audiobook I've reviewed here on the BDrag, and it might be the last. I'm sure the narrator, Elizabeth Knowelden, is a lovely person. But I found her narration of Cruel Beauty to be overdone and overly dramatic, to the point of ruination. Every single moment was dragged out and overemphasized as if it carried some enormous emotional weight. Some moments were emotionally charged, but, good grief, not everything! For the love.
For example, she would slow down her reading and lower her voice for dramatic effect at the end of nearly every sentence. Like, the sentence, "The door clicked shut" could be dramatic if the door was trapping Nyx in a room holding some unknown horror (which did happen and so the drama was appropriate) but it isn't all that scary (and isn't meant to be scary) if she's just closing the door behind her as she goes to the dining hall to eat breakfast. In that case, the drama is not applicable and just comes across as silly. I found myself rolling my eyes more than once at the ill-timed and misplaced melodrama. Although I did have many problems with the story, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the physical book instead of listened to it. At least things got better once I sped up the narration speed.
Bottom Line: I can't say I would recommend Cruel Beauty. The primary emotions I felt while reading were confusion, irritation, and disappointment. I'd be curious to hear from someone who loved the book, though. If you did, tell me where I went wrong!