Erin gives us our first update to our Literary Bingo challenge! What’s Literary Bingo? Check it out.
Bingo Square: YA Based on a Fairy Tale
Title: Cruel Beauty
Author: Rosamund Hodge
I tried to make my literary bingo board more challenging by including squares with unfamiliar book categories in an effort to broaden my reading scope. This is not one of those squares.
Maybe I cheated a bit by including a sub genre that I already know and love, but I wanted to kick off my literary bingo with a sure bet. I prefer to keep my “abandoned” Goodreads shelf sparsely populated, and fairy tale inspired young adult fiction is consistently readable.
In this retelling of Beauty and the Beast (with hints of East of the Sun and West of the Moon and other similar fairy tales), seventeen year old Nyx is forced to fulfill her father’s end of a poorly planned bargain by marrying her land’s ruling demon prince. But not only must Nyx marry this evil creeper, she’s also pressured to sacrifice herself as the only way to destroy him and free her country from centuries of oppression.
Of course her new husband turns out to be not-so-evil, albeit slightly psychotic from the effects of an ancient curse. Complicated swoons ensue.
With an older heroine and a few tweaks to the romance (read: more sexy times), Cruel Beauty would make a pretty awesome dark fantasy of the non-YA variety. Yet as it is, the bleak introspection of a resentful Beauty and an intricate alternate history/fantasy setting inspired by Greek mythology make it one of the more captivating and mature YA fairy tale retellings I’ve encountered. The first couple chapters of clumsily narrated backstory are tedious, but the action picks up once Nyx leaves her family and begins unraveling the mysteries of her new home, which include shifting hallways and a secret room full of her predecessors’ corpses, a la Bluebeard.
The climactic mystery reveal is a bit convoluted, but a delightful romance and a neat, if somewhat predictable, variation on the obnoxious YA love triangle lightened up the story enough to make for a pretty decent read.