“I was raised to marry a monster.”
Nyx is an angry girl who’s been promised as a bride to the prince of demons by her father. She’s been raised as a sacrifice to buy her village protection from the demons that plague them.
“Don’t look at the shadows too long or a demon might look back.”
Nix is filled with hatred. Hatred for her father, her aunt, her dead mother, and her kind twin sister, Astraia. Nyx knows one of them has to die, because of the bargain her father struck, and she struggles not to resent the one person who’s always loved her. “If one of us had to die, it ought to be the one with poison in her heart.”
Meeting the Gentle Lord isn’t at all what Nyx expected, and it’s a pretty safe bet that Nyx surprised him. He tells her to call him Ignifex, but if she can guess his true name, she wins her freedom. Guessing wrong would be fatal. He neither ravages, nor kills her and promptly has his shadow, Shade, escort her to her room.
Since Nyx has grown up in a confusion of love and hatred for those surrounding her, she does surprisingly well in her new role. The Gentle Lord Ignifex tells her that he likes a wife with a little malice in her heart and they develop a nice rapport. She might even care about him, just a little. She’s still determined to destroy him and spends her nights exploring, trying to find all the house’s secrets. Shade is eager to betray his master, but can only give clues. Ignifex knows exactly what she’s about, but is arrogant enough not to be worried. In fact, he’s amused and enjoys trying to pull her off course. “Distracting me with gruesome stories will only work so often.”
Cruel Beauty is now my favorite reimagining of Beauty and the Beast to date. It’s beautifully written, with complex characters. Nyx is a lovely mix of bitter and kind, much like I enjoy my villains. Ignifex has been around for so many hundreds of years, he’s forgotten many of his own secrets. Shade’s been around the entire time, but is unable to divulge anything that would harm his master. 5 stars, highly recommended.