Stolen: A Letter to My Captor: A Book Review

What you did to me wasn’t this brilliant thing, like you think it was. You took me away from everything – my parents, my friends, my life. You took me to the sand and the heat, the dirt and isolation. And you expected me to love you. And that’s the hardest bit. Because I did, or at least, I loved something out there.
But I hated you too. I can’t forget that.”

Book: Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

Author: Lucy Cristopher

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor

Blurb:

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist – almost.

My thoughts:

There’s one (and only one thing) in this book that will make or break it for you: Ty.

He broke it.
Yes, he was brutally raw, primitive, passionate, beautifully honest and towards the end of the book, he was very compelling. I’m not going to lie- I felt for him. And in another setting, I might have loved him.
But he was obsessed, and that’s why I couldn’t. He was insane, a sick madman who teeters on the brink of anger and violence. At times, he was terrifying.

He stalked a girl for six years (ever since she was ten). He ‘protected’ her from other stalkers. And then he stole her. He drugged her. He imprisoned her.

Yet, you can’t completely hate him. He does it with the best of intentions (you know what they say about the path to hell). He feels that her parents don’t value her enough (true.). He never ‘touches’ her, much less rapes her (there’s not a single kiss in this whole book). He clearly cares for her, maybe even loves her.

But I can’t excuse him.
I shouldn’t excuse him because he scared a 16-year-old girl and then confessed romantic intentions towards her (he was in his mid 20’s at least). I shouldn’t excuse him because he drugged and dragged her like a caveman to his freaking cave. And another reason that justifies me condemning him:

“How long will you keep me?” I asked.
You shrugged. “Forever, of course.”

I can’t excuse him.

“It’s hard to hate someone once you understand them.”

Yet…in the middle he negotiates with her. If you still dislike it after four months, I’ll drop you off at the nearest town, he says. In that sense, if he’s a kidnapper- he’s a  good one. In the end, He gives up his freedom, to save her life.
It was tough for me to choose- but I couldn’t excuse him. But could I hate him? Of course, not!

“Lets face it, you did steal me. But you saved my life too. And somewhere in the middle, you showed me a place so different and beautiful, I can never get it out of my mind. And I can’t get you out of there either. You’re stuck in my brain like my own blood vessels.”

If Ty was complicated, Gemma was anything but. She was instantly relatable. She reminded me of…me. A little bratty, a little jaded, surprisingly insightful, curious and so, so brave. But still so believable. Yes, she pissed herself. Yes, she was terrified through half the book. But, she was empathetic, tenuous and determined. If I was ever in such a situation, I would be proud to behave like her. And when Stockholm Syndrome gradually began seeping in, I was as confused as she was.

The writing (lyrical, descriptive, poetic) and the setting (the wild, flame coloured sandy desert in Australia) almost steal the show- but not quite. No matter how gorgeous the scenery, our hearts and minds remain entangled by the bewitchingly bewildering situation, and the powerful characters.

Stolen: A letter to my captor, is so heart-breakingly confusing and beautiful, you will walk away from the book half dazed and completely in tears.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Books like this: On the Jellicoe Road, 5th Wave

Quotables:

“People love what they’re used to, I guess.”
“No.” You shook your head. “People should love what needs loving. That way they can save it.”

“Icy blue, looking back at me as if I could
warm them up. They’re
pretty powerful, you know, those eyes, pretty beautiful, too.”

“One day they’ll let you out of that dry, empty cell. You’ll return to the Separates, and you’ll feel the rain once more. And you’ll grow straight, this time, toward this sunlight. I know you will.”

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Exquisite Captive: A Book Review

Book: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)

Author: Heather Demetrios

Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)

Blurb:

Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

My thoughts:

‘Oh gag me!’ I think I actually said that out loud when I first saw the title of this book. Um…can I just say the title evokes a very different kind of book (I’m thinking explicit BDSM). The cover was nice enough but it wasn’t enough to help me change my mind (you know what they say about first impressions- they’re the most important).For that matter, neither was the blurb. So, I bet you’re wondering ‘Why exactly did she read this then?’. That’s a good question. A very good question. I’d tell you the answer but I’m not sure of it myself.

But that’s kind of irrelevant right now since I’m so glad I read the book. The world-building was a little hard to process (for the life of me, i can’t remember all five of the jinn races) but at the end of the day it worked pretty well, providing a beautiful, dramatic backdrop to the plot of the story.  But other than the unfamiliar terms, it was amazing. With short, selective flashbacks and believable dialogue she creates Arjinna, a fictional realm which feels so realistic.Through these flashbacks, we learn about a complex military coup (and Nalia’s pivotal role in it), the realm’s social injustice and brazen attitude to violence.

I’ll tell you one more thing that’s essential to the plot- the characters. This book is very character driven.  Can you imagine anything more compelling than forced slavery, Stockholm syndrome, exotic djinn, a war torn land and a shit-load of guilt? I can’t (but that’s probably explains why I’m a terrible author).I just described our main character for you. She’s trapped in a position of eternal servitude, but somehow she never comes across as defeated. She takes part in small, little rebellions against her ‘master’, Malek like wearing different clothes from the ones he gifted her or purposely misinterpreting wishes. She’s passively aggressive- I love passive-aggressive characters espescially ’cause they usually come with a huge dose of wonderful, wonderful sarcasm.

Sometimes I felt that the light sarcasm was the only thing in this book which kept it from crossing the line over to the ‘adults’ section. With Nalia’s guilt, her unwilling seduction of Malek and the question of slavery rearing it’s head at every turn, this book had a lot of dark themes going on.  The humor that counter-balnced all of this was veryw ell placed and not over-done.

That brings us to the romance of the story; it’s terrible. There’s a love triangle but that’s not completely unforigvable. What is unforgivable is how abusive both the male characters are. Unfortunately, this is something we see in a lot of young adult fiction. I’ve written about it here.
Malek, her ‘Master’ is physically abusive. He traps her in silver bottles (silver is poisonous to jinn), throws her into walls and tells her stuff like “We belong together.” CREEPY. And then he tries buying her stuff in ‘forgiveness’. I was disgusted when Nalia actually felt something ‘real’ for him. However, by the end of the story it’s made clear that it was just a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome and when Nalia completely denounced him and his love for her, I burst into spontaneous applause.
Raif is really no better. He doesn’t go as far as hurting Nalia physically but he keeps her at arms length, constantly referring to her as a ‘Goat’s whore’ and reminding her of the terrible tragedies suffered by the majority of the djinn at her hands and the hands of her people. He backs her into corners, bargaining to give  her freedom if she betrays an oath that she took ages and ages ago. I hate to say it- no actually I don’t- but that’s not the most healthy relationship either.

The ending is a pretty good segue for the next book, Blood Passage,which should come out in 2015. There were no cliff-hangers so I wasn’t left with a burning desire to read the next book right away but I think this is one of the books I’ll look forward to next year.

My Ratings:

Cover: 2/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Romance:1/5
Plotholes: 2/5
Ending:3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
Books like this: Shatter Me (for the romance) by Tahereh Mafi,  Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Rites of Passage: A Book Review

Book: Rites of Passage 
Author: Joy N Hensley

Rites of Passage

Blurb: 

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences

My thoughts:

When the cover came out, I was like ‘meh’ and then promptly  forgot it for a couple of months until the blurb came out… the blurb was a mega game-changer; it marketed the book as a chick-lit military fic. I’ve never made a secret of the how much I love chick-lit  (it’s my guilty pleasure) or how much I enjoy reading about the army. Just reading the blurb was enough to push me to read it.

I’m a sucker for girls who have to prove to the world just how worthy they are. Sam is one of them – one of the first females to be allowed into a military school!  Right from the beginning, Sam realises that she doesn’t have to be just as good as the boys-she has to be better. And she is-she’s better at doing pushups, at maintaining her uniform and generally at being a recruit.  However, sexism plays a huge part in the army and there are a lot of guys who think she doesn’t deserve to be there no matter how good she is. As a fellow female,I was rooting for Sam throughout the book. She is humiliated in millions of ways, forced to do strenuous physical training (which reminds me just how out of shape I am) and is ostracised by her peers and leaders (even her own brother) at every opportunity. At times, this book made me sick with anger and disgust. As a fellow female,I was rooting for Sam throughout the book; this book made me desperate for Sam to prove everyone wrong and make it through.

Sam rose to every occasion. She was fierce, determined…and a total badass. At the same time, she wasn’t perfect. At several points throughout the book, she is almost ready to give up in despair and anger,her respect problems (I sometimes felt that she gave authority figures waaay too much respect) and serious lack of tact are enough to keep her out of the Mary-Sue box.

While there are a whole lot of jerks at school, Joy makes sure to develop back-stories and characters for all the cadets Sam comes in contact with. There’s a major emphasis on the girls there but some of the boys are well-rounded too.

The romance doesn’t play a major role in the book. There are two romances taking place (not simultaneously though, thank the gods!) but they remain light and seem more like a good friendship than epic declarations of love.

A lot of people were unsatisfied with the ending but I’m going to go ahead and be a little unpopular. I think the ending was fine for this book. After all, there were no loose ends left to wrap up and the book had succeeded in presenting the problem of sexism and how Sam fought against it; there was a introduction, character development, rise of action, climax, fall of action and a cute enough resolution. What more do you want? That being said, I wouldn’t say no to a sequel.<winks>

What I like most about the book is the message that it promotes. The strongest theme of the book is feminism and it’s splashed everywhere in this book in black, white and pink but the book takes a very serious stance against homophobia and bullying,  showing how -even now- the military is pretty close-minded. The book is inspiring; motivating and encouraging us (sorry to be cliche) to follow our dreams and never give up. Like any good YA book it sweetly cover what family is really about and the truth behind deep friendships.

My Ratings:

Cover: 1/5

Plot: 4/5

Characters: 4/5

Romance: 3/5

Ending: 3/5 

 Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Books like this:  If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Born Wicked: A Book Review

Book: Born Wicked (Cahill Witch Chronicles #1)
Author/Authoress: Jennifer Spotswood

Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles, #1)

Cover:3/5

Plot:4/5

Blurb:

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

My Thoughts:

No offense to whoever decided the blurb was a good description of the book but it definitely is not. The discrepancies start in the first line. Contrary to what the blurb suggests, this book is not full of Mary Sue’s who are way too pretty, way too smart and way too mysterious. The sister’s are all pretty relatable; they have their own flaws and foot-in-the-mouth moments.

A large part of the plot relies on the worldbuilding, and Oh My God! What a world! Set in an alternate version of the US, where witchcraft exists and is stifled. The history of the world is confusing at first, but here it’s in a nutshell.  Around 100 years ago, the Brotherhood gained power, killing all the witches and then setting  up a Puritan-like regime under which women have no power and very few rights. They use the witches’ power to justify suppressing  women and making them subservient.

But what I liked most about the book were the sibling dynamics. Favouritism, jealousy, teasing, rivalry- this book had it all. Though the sister’s sometimes go out of the way to get on each other’s nerves, at the end of the day, they’d do anything to keep each other safe and happy.

Characters:4/5

As far as characters go, Cate Cahill is as good as you get. An admirable character despite all her flaws;She’s fiercely protective of her sisters, but at the same time somewhat resentful of them. After all, she has to play disciplinarian to her two contrary, wilder, free-spirited sisters, and it sucks the life out of her to do so. She’s angry with the Brotherhood and the rules of the world, and though she tries concealing it, it shows. She’s distrustful of the world around her and deeply paranoid that someone will figure out the secret of her sisters. As a result she keeps everyone at arm’s length but she tries (she really tries) to help people who are unable to help themselves. She hates her own magic because she hates that it puts them all in danger of being found out.

Maura and Tess have less screen time than Cate does. But Maura is a very interesting character. Sometimes spiteful and petty, she’s jealous of Cate. Unlike Cate, she fully embraces her magic and resents Cate for cautioning her. She’s a true romantic but at the same time, she’s resolved to marry pragmatically. The reason for this becomes clear near the end of the book. Tess is the sweet, bookish younger sister. Precocious, quiet and wise- both of her older sisters adore her. Yet, Tessa seems to be closer to Cate than Maura.

Elena is another fascinating character. She’s a governess sent from the Sisterhood (a convent like organisation). Right from the start she’s unpredictable. The sister’s expected a governess who was old, traditional and stuffy ; instead they got Elena’s pretty, intelligent and fashionable. She pushes the sisters towards entering the Sisterhood instead of the more  conventional marriage route. She’s a manipulative and cunning women who quickly wins Maura’s favour. Cate dislikes her for thoroughly winning Maura over (part of it is jealousy), and distrusts her motives.

Romance:2/5

Yuck! There’s a love triangle. On one side, we have the best friend, Paul-  a successful architect and someone who understands Cate’s thirst for adventure. On the other wee have the bookish, deeply loyal, mostly innocent gardener- who’s thoroughly unsuitable. Oh angst, angst, angst. Who will Cat choose?  That was sarcasm, by the way.

Ending:3/5

Where did that come from? Out of nowhere, that’s where. I can honestly say: I did not see that coming. But if there’s one thing that the ending succeeded in , it was in making me impatient for the next book .

Plotholes:4/5

The blurb is a bit iffy and I’m not on board with all the romance in this book. But I really did love the complicated relationship between the sisters as well as the firendiships developed in the book. I think that more than balances things out. The strong feminist messages in the book also scored the book a couple of points (or more than a couple, really) with me along with all the diversity ( we have Japanese, African-Americans and some lesbian characters in the book- all who play a major role)

Overall Rating:3/5

A fun read, that can get pretty intense at times. Don’t read this book for the romance; read it for the familial relationships.

 

 

Juliet Immortal: A Book Review

Book: Juliet Immortal
Author/Authoress: Stacey Kay

Juliet Immortal (Juliet Immortal, #1)

Cover: 5/5

Plot:4/5

Blurb:

An intense paranormal love story featuring Romeo and Juliet, literary history’s most tragic couple, who meet again, not as true lovers, but truly as enemies.

The most tragic love story in history . . .

Juliet Capulet didn’t take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn’t anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she’s fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she’s forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.

“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.”
—Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

My Thoughts:

Me? I’m the kind of girl who think’s that the Romeo and Juliet love story is not an epic romance, but an epic case of insanity. At the very beginning of the drama, Romeo is obsessed with a girl named Rosalind but as soon as he sees Juliet, he instantly falls in love with her (and we all know how I feel about instalove). Moving along, Romeo and Juliet get married. I know that people got married early in those days but please keep in mind that these were 14 and 15 year old kids who met and fell in love within 3 days. Crazy, right? If you think that’s bad- I haven’t even started yet. A mere few hours after getting married, Romeo goes ahead and offs Juliet’s cousin (in the name of self defense). But the part that irks me most about this loony story is that both of them commit double suicide. Even worse is that this willingness to kill one’s self for the sake of love is glorified and touted as proof of ‘twu wuv’.  So as soon as I saw this quote in this book, I kind of fell in love.

“Glamorizing death, making dying for love seem the most noble act of all, though nothing could be further from the truth. Taking an innocent life—in a misguided attempt to prove love or for any other reason—is a useless waste.”

 

This was after I realised how much I liked having Romeo and Juliet locked on opposing sides of a war with Juliet protecting young lovers and Romeo in his batshit crazy way, coercing them to kill each other. Like, woah! I really, really liked the idea of Juliet attempting to annihilate Romeo instead of sighing over him.

Characters: 3/5

Juliet had a very clear, unique and easily identifiable voice. She was a seven hundred year old cynic who had died at age fourteen but was stuck inside a  sixteen year old’s body. When you finally wrap your head around all that, you’ll appreciate how hard it had to be for Stacey Jay to portray Juliet. Even though Juliet, as a rule, has a hard time trusting people, for an immortal she shows an unprecedented amount of compassion. Surprisingly, despite the fact she’s beemake even though it made her so jealous.

Romeo…Oh! Romeo was totally and completely crazy. If there was an asylum for immortals, Romeo would have a place. Perhaps the most frightening thing about him was his utter disregard for humans and their ambitions. Or maybe it was the fact that he could lie without telling a lie and then when caught in the act, justify it all. Despite his evil ways, Romeo, like all seductive players, has a charismatic sort of  narcissism. You can kind of see why Juliet fell for him in the first place. Well that and the poetry.

Romance:1/5

Ugh! No to the romance. Ben is a sweet enough character I guess (who would have thought that he had anger issues? but the romance was love at first sight. How could Juliet be stupid enough to think that love at first sight was possible, again? I mean she must have seen where insta-love had gotten her in the first place: With a knife in her back. Literally. So why was she masochistic enough to go and do it all over again?

Ending: 2/5

The ending was as terrible as the romance. It was a quick, abrupt deus ex machina which made no sense at all. The rest of the book was beautiful; why did the ending have to spoil it all.

Plotholes:3/5

The insta-love. And the fact that Juliet’s going thorough the whole fiasco a second time. Enough said.

Overall rating:

At times, this book was beautiful and poignant. I loved the whole new take on the epic Romeo and Juliet romance. I loved the setup of the world. So yeah, this book IS worth reading. 

However, the book has a few flaws- most notably, the instalove. I guess you can’t escape instalove if you want to read YA paranormal romance. <sigh> Pity.

 

 

YA Covers Worth More Than A Second Glance

Here’s a collage of the most beautiful young adult covers ever. They’re attached to some pretty good books too. So if you get the chance, do read them.

 

Here are the books on the list: (not in order of goregeousness):

  1. Everneath by Brodi Ashton
  2. Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
  3. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
  4. Where She Went by Gayle Foreman
  5. My Name is Rapunzel by K.C. Hilton
  6. Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
  7. Altered by Jennifer Rush
  8. Die For Me by Amy Plum
  9. Taken by Erin Bowman
  10. Clockwork Princess by Cassendra Clare

Cruel Beauty: A Book Review

Book: Cruel Beauty
Author/Authoress: Rosamund Hodge

Cover: 3/5

Plot:5/5

Blurb:

Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast in this sweeping fantasy about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny and the monster who gets in her way-by stealing her heart.
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.

My thoughts:

Despite the unfortunate blurb (trust me, this book is a lot better than the blurb suggests), this is hand’s down, the best fairy-tale book I’ve ever read. It manages to keep the essential elements for a fairytale- a twisted house with bunches of locked up rooms, a curious girl who goes poking around and a father who was stupid enough to give up his daughter to someone he thought of as a monster. But this book…this book transcends fairytales. There’s a healthy sprinkling of Greek mythology (Squee!) and, wonderfully lovable twisted characters and witty, esoteric dialogues (how is it that people shut up in a single house can be so sarcastic, witty and funny in turn?)

Characters: 5/5

What I liked the book the most for was the main character.

Nyx is not a good girl. Not at all. She kind of hates her aunt, resents her father and is deeply jealous of her obedient and beautiful twin sister. In fact the last thing she tells her sister is that she hates her and their mother’s death was her fault. Outrageously shocking, right? Wrong. For the sake of his wife,  Nyx’s father agreed to give away one of his daughters in marriage (read exchange them like they’re property) to a monster. By some cruel twist of fate (or maybe it was just a bad bargain), Nyx’s mother dies in childbirth and Nyx’s twin, who is lucky enough to look exactly like her mother is spared. However, this means that Nyx is the one destined to marry and kill the Lord of Bargains. It’s death sentence but no one in her family seems to understand the sacrifice she is making. Wouldn’t you resent and hate your family too if they were insensitive enough to make a plan to send you to your death without even a hint of sympathy?

So, Nyx has a bit of a dark streak. But at the same time, she’s terribly noble, clever and brave. It’s impossible not to root for her after reading a few pages. She has a very strong sense of justice and is hugely empathetic.

Romance:4/5

Ignifex is Nyx’s husband and he’s…for lack of a better word amazing. His sense of humour is strong and tends to be inappropriate at times (he’s the kind of guy who cracks jokes for fun, cracks jokes to break the tension, cracks jokes at serious times- basically he cracks a lot of jokes).His sense of humour juxtaposes with his reputation of being a dark, mysterious being who cheats people out of their lives, their family and generally their own happiness. He’s a bit of an enigma, really. And he’s completely (not just a bit) bipolar. At one second he could be warning his ‘wife’ with a deep, profound metamorphic story and then the next he would be saying something sarcastic and witty, making you (and Nyx) wonder what he really meant. Ignifex is the type of character who keeps you on the very tips of your toes, alternatively rolling your eyes at the cheesiness of his pickup lines (did they have pickup lines in medieval times?) and then leaning forward wondering if he had finally unveiled some great mystery about himself. He simultaneously infuriates and intrigues Nyx and their chemistry is very obvious.

A lot of things are ambiguous in this book. And the romance in this is one of them. I’m still not clear if there’s a love triangle or not. 

Shade is a servant in Ignifex’s servant, he’s a shadow at all times during the day but during the night he wears a face exactly like Ignifex’s. At first I thought he was the ‘good guy’ because he actively helps Nyx find a way to destroy Ignifex and is portrayed to be gentle and sweet  but like all the characters in the book, he’s a grey character who has done his share of horrendous things. At one point we are told, that Shade is Ignifex’s opposite; what Ignifex has, Shade does not and what Shade has, Ignifex does not.

Ending:2/5

I couldn’t really understand the ending. It was beautiful and it was profound but I wasn’t able to apprectiate all the the depth of the ending.

Plotholes:4/5

Cruel Beauty is a beautiful book which is about the consequences of one’s actions, shades of grey and sacrifice. All of these are very ambiguous topics so it’s not really a surprise that this book is unclear at some points, using metaphors which you have to read a couple of times to truly understand. I don’t understand why the blurb markets this book as a simple, frivolous, fun fairy-tale; this book is not exactly light reading (although it is pretty fun). At some parts it can get dark and at others it gets very deep.

Overall Rating:4/5

If you’re looking for a good young-adult book based on a fairy tale, then I would recommend this book to you. It’s beautifully gritty and dark- just like a REAL fairy-tale (not a Disney one) so you might want to keep that in mind when you finally pick it up to read.