Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

"Her mission was to kill him. Her destiny was to love him."

Nyx Triskelion was raised to marry a monster. She had known her destiny since the age of nine. Her father, the Master Magnum of the Resurgandi, made a bargain with the Gentle Lord, who is the prince of demons, seventeen years earlier. Now that bargain is due. Nyx is to become his wife. The Resurgandi is an "organization of scholars that was officially founded to further Hermetic research". Nyx has longed to attend Lyceum, the great university where the Resurgandi was founded. But she and her twin sister, Astraia, learned the secret truth of the Resurgandi when they were nine. "The first Magister Magnum and his nine followers swore a secret oath to destroy the Gentle Lord and undo the Sundering. For the past two hundred years, all the Resurgandi had labored toward that end." (The Sundering occurred when the Gentle Lord killed the prince of Arcadia before he could be crowned king and took over rule. He only asked for tribute to keep his demons in check. He only offered his wish-granting abilities to those foolish enough to ask for them. He separated Acradia from the rest of the world.) Nyx only wanted to learn Hermatic principles at Lyceum. Through her father's bargain with the Gentle Lord, her fate was given to her. She is to kill the Gentle Lord and undo the Sundering.

After her proxy wedding before all of the villagers, her father rides with Nyx to the Gentle Lord's home, the tower that's the only part left of the crumbling castle of Arcadia. Nyx gives her father one last dig about his bargain with the Gentle Lord and not caring for her. She walks the rest of the way to the tower and finds that the door opens for her. She enters a space that surprises her. The house turns out to be deceptive much larger on the inside than out. In the circular room with all of the doors locked, Nyx announces to her new husband that she has arrived and falls against the wall and floor. She eventually falls asleep.

Nyx wakes up to find the Gentle Lord sleeping against her with his head on her shoulder. She is surprised by his handsome, youthful looks but his catlike eyes truly horrify her. She is surprised that he doesn't immediately want to be her husband in every way. He tells her that it is time to show her to her room. He raises his hand in a gesture and Nyx is startled to see his shadow become separate from his body. The Gentle Lord tells her that Shade will show her to her room. Shade drags her away and is unable to speak. He shows Nyx to her new room and leaves. She is unhappy and furious over her new life and ashamed that she destroyed her sister's perceptions of that new life.

Dinner goes as well as expected when Nyx tries to stab the Gentle Lord with her fork. He stops her and lets her know that maybe she deserves to be his wife. He tells her that she may call him Ignifex but it isn't his real name. Every night he will give her the opportunity to guess his real name. If she guesses right, Nyx will gain her freedom. If she guesses wrong, she dies. He also gives her a key that will unlock only the rooms that she will have access to. If she tries to enter any of the rooms she doesn’t have access to, she will regret it, but not for long. Not really wanting very much to eat, Nyx announces that she is going to bed. Ignifex asks if she wants to guess his name. Nyx declines. He kisses her knuckles and says that he will see her in the morning. She is surprised that he doesn't want to consummate their marriage. He tells her that he is her husband. "I can wait as long as I please and still have all of you."

Back in her room, Nyx is surprised when Shade comes to her. Not there because of Ignifex, Shade begins to take a corporeal form. He looks exactly like Ignifex but he has beautiful, blue human eyes. Still unable to talk, Nyx is able to deduce that Shade is a part of Ignifex. Shade is a prisoner of Ignifex, just as she is. Unable to fully trust him, she allows Shade take her down the hall and back into the ballroom. The floor has changed from earlier. It is now a pool of water that holds their weight. She realizes that he has shown her one of the hearts of Hermetic working. If she can find the other three, Nyx will be able to stop the Gentle Lord. Hopeful for the first time in her life, Nyx kisses Shade. He tells her to be careful. He is able to speak because she kissed him. Nyx realizes that Shade isn't a part of Ignifex, but someone else he has cursed. He warns her that he has betrayed Ignifex once and that she shouldn't trust him. Shade is unable to reveal any of Ignifex's secrets or to help her find the other three hearts. It will be safest for her to search at night. She is their only hope. Nyx promises to save him but asks him who he is. "Just a shadow" and he disappears.

Will Nyx be able to defeat the Gentle Lord and save Arcadia? What is his true name? Who is Shade? Why does Shade look like Ignifex? What happens when Nyx finds herself falling in love with Ignifex? Can Nyx ignore the duty she was raised to follow and kill the Gentle Lord?
In this twisted retelling of Beauty and the Beast, readers will be left hanging until the end to see how Nyx’s story ends.

Visit Rosamund Hodge’s website.

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