Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
I loved this book. I didn’t think I would. But the story pulled me in, had me guessing, and involved just enough fantastical magical elements to keep the ending a mystery that I didn’t fully understand until later.
Nyx is sent by her father to be the bride of the Gentle Lord, in a bargain her father struck before she was born. She keeps her resentment trapped inside, never letting her father, sister or aunt see her true despair and anger over her situation. She pretends to be strong until the days she leaves, when she (cruelly) tells her sister there is no hope, and she won’t be returning. She meets two men in the Gentle Lord’s manor - her demon husband and his shadow. Both show her kindnesses and cruelty and she is forced to decide who to believe and trust.
I loved reading about Nyx. She was brave and honest, and even though she sometimes made cruel decisions (but not really, they stemmed from her mistreatment and frustration) she understood they were the wrong decisions. I couldn’t help but compare her to Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, thinking they each faced morally ambiguous decisions, and Nyx could have easily turned heartless and cruel to follow a path similar to Xifeng.
The magic behind the story that traps the Gentle Lord in his manor and ties Nyx there after her father bargain is fully explained. It’s mired in just enough Greco-Roman lore to easily follow the connections, and while some of the “house rules” are never fully explained, the Magic entrapping the three main character become more elaborate and twisted as the story progresses.
Such a fun read. It started out a little slow, and while some parts of Nyx exploring the house were a little too “Alice in wonderland” for more, the love story pulled me and kept me fully engaged.