Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

cruel beauty

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

A stunningly inventive retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this debut novel turns the entire tale around over and over again.  Born into a world captured under a paper sky, Nyx has been promised as a bride to their demon ruler since she was born.  Her father promised tribute when he made a deal with the demon, so Nyx is to be sacrificed.  But her sacrifice is not to be without results, so she has been trained to kill her demon husband.  On her seventeenth birthday, she is sent to live with her new husband whom she has never met in his incredible castle.  She is not expecting to be beguiled by her new husband or by his silent shadow that serves him.  But once in the realm of her husband things are different, answers are not as clear, and even the questions shift and change just like the rooms and doors in the castle.  Nyx must figure out how she can save not only her family and her world but whether her newfound love can be saved too.

I was amazed when I discovered that this is a debut novel.  The writing has a polish and steadiness that would not lead one to believe that when reading.  Hodge has managed to take the foundation of the Beauty and the Beast storyline but then transform it, writing her own original world on top of it yet never quite leaving the original too far behind.  It is a critical balance in reworking familiar stories, and Hodge manages it admirably.  She turns it into something wilder, more frightening and just as beautiful.

Nyx is a wonderful protagonist.  I love how prickly she is, how feisty and fiery.  She can stand right up to a demon and match wits with him.  Yet she is also entirely human, torn by the fact her father chose to sacrifice her, awash with a mix of love and hate for her twin sister, and at times overcome with the situation she finds herself in.  Hodge allows these opposite forces to linger, building the tension and not resolving it until the end. 

Dramatic, romantic and completely beguiling, this retelling of Beauty and the Beast will get teen hearts racing even as the world twists and turns changing the story.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray.

Review: The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer

demon catchers of milan

The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer

Mia’s life is turned upside down when she is possessed by a demon.  She terrorizes her family, throws them across the room, and destroys their home.  Priests try to exorcize the demon, but nothing works until her relatives from Italy arrive and force the demon to flee.  Mia has to return to Milan with them so that she can be protected from future attacks by the demon.  Once there, she is kept inside most of the time unless several of her family are available to escort her outdoors.  Even with their protection, the demon tries to attack her often.  Mia begins to learn Italian, the history of her family, and the strange arts that they practice.  Soon she feels very at home in Milan, but will there ever be a time that she is truly safe there?

Beyer’s book is very well-written.  It has a style that celebrates the historical in Milan, the beauty of the Italian language, and the strength of a close-knit family.  The perspective of Mia is crucial to this, allowing readers a way to see Milan for the first time through her eyes.  Add in the exorcisms and demons, and you have a book that is a dazzling addition to teen lit.

The setting of Milan is as much a part of the story as Mia’s extended family.  It is Italy that is celebrated here.  At the same time though, Mia’s extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins are each written as unique and intriguing characters.  Some are imposing, others motherly, but they all surprise and delight. 

The opening scene of the book with Mia’s possession is written so vividly and with such strength that you know that you are in for a unique and fascinating read.  Happily that stunning opening continues through the entire book.  Appropriate for ages 15-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Egmont.