Cruel Beauty was my Random Read pick for March and I decided to review the novella Gilded Ashes with the review of Cruel Beauty. Hodge sets both stories in the world of Arcadia, a world ruled by the Gentle Lord and his demons. I received Cruel Beauty free from HarperCollins imprint: Balzer +Bray as an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I love the covers of both of these!
Gilded Ashes takes place before Cruel Beauty and is a twist on Cinderella. Maia's mother bargained with the Gentle Lord to always be around to protect her daughter. Her wish, as all the Gentle Lord's bargains are, is twisted and she is little more than a ghost who uses demons to "protect" her daughter. Maia tries to not get close to anyone including her stepmother and two stepsisters, so that no one else will become a victim to the demons. When her stepsister makes her deliver letters to the Duke's son Anax, Maia and Anax began to fall for each other. Maia will do anything to protect those around her, including give up her own happiness.
This was a great novella just the right size to care about the characters and short enough to be a quick read. I loved Maia's character and her willingness to protect those she loves. She also makes a very wise choice in the end.
Favorite Quote: "'Love is madness,' I say. 'Doesn't everyone agree that you'd do anything, endure anything to be with the ones you love?"
Cruel Beauty is a twist on the story of Beauty and the Beast. Nyx knows her one purpose in life is to free Arcadia from the Gentle Lord. She is forced to become his bride by her father's foolish bargaining and trained by her father and others who want the downfall of the Gentle Lord. She is trained to destroy the Gentle Lord and his labyrinth of a house. She knows that means doing all her wifely duties while scheming to lock him and herself in the collapsing house. However things don't work the way they are supposed to and Nyx ends up befriending Shade, who is the shadow of the Gentle Lord. Nyx realizes Shade is a prisoner like herself and begins to fall for him. Her feelings are complicated by the Gentle Lord coming to her rescue one night and she suddenly sees that he may too be a prisoner to the Fates. Nyx must decide if destroying the Gentle Lord and saving Arcadia is her true destiny or if she can save everyone without destroying her own heart.
This was a wonderful twist on Beauty and the Beast and I enjoyed it very much. The path of love is often rocky and Nyx and her love definitely have to suffer throughout their journey. I love Hodge's writing style which is perfect for twisted fairytales. She is very descriptive and gives her characters the old world style of fairytales but makes them current enough to appeal to a modern audience. Lovely is the best word to describe her style.
Favorite Character: Nyx. She is perfectly flawed. Stubborn, loyal, angry, and loving. She is not a sweet princess character, but the strong heroine.
Favorite Quote: "But you know what you are, and what you deserve. You lie to me but not to yourself. That's why I love you." "I wanted to hit him again and I wanted to cry. Most of all, I wanted to forget my mission and lose myself in the embrace of the one person who had ever seen my heart and claimed to love me after."
This is a perfect love story of two people who are perfectly flawed, but love each other flaws and all. The end was a bit different and confusing at first, but it fits with the story. A beautiful retelling.
Both of these are definitely 5 cups of cocoa! I can't wait to read more by this author and I am excited that her next retellings based on Romeo and Juliet are in the works!