Review: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

17368138Blurb from Goodread

A romantic and fantastical reimagining of the classic Cinderella tale, Gilded Ashes is a novella by Rosamund Hodge set in the same world as the author’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty.

Orphan Maia doesn’t see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia’s father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother’s approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they’ll all be struck dead by the curse.

Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn’t believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What’s the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she’ll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn’t believe in love. Anax can’t help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can’t help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother’s deadly bargain?

ebook, 111 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Balzer + Bray
language edition: English
series: Cruel Beauty Universe
genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
My Thoughts
This book begins with “My mother loved me more than life itself. That’s how everything went wrong.” That single paragraph intrigued me, because what can be wrong with the love of a mother who loves you more than anything, though there is also a song, Indonesian song, that called “Love that Kill You”. And after reading this novella, I know that yes, apparently love can kill you.

To be honest, I don’t know much about Cinderella story. I only know one version of the story. It’s Disney version which is way different than this story. Just like Cruel Beauty, this retelling is far from sweet, easy, cheerful story like Disney created. It’s the opposite. It’s dark, eerie and cruel with ironic story. After all, it’s about the bargain with the demon, nothing sweet you will get when you do it, right? That’s the connection between Gilded Ashes and Cruel Beauty. Gentle Lord makes an appearance here, to grant wishes from characters in this story. With him alone and his connection, I think the author can create many stories.

Again, just like Cruel Beauty I feel like it’s a new story. Maia or the Cinderella in this story doesn’t need prince charming to save her from her stepmother. She’s strong and brave enough to save herself and help her stepsisters. She’s also witty, smart and honest, though in her honesty there is also deceit. She likes and good at deceiving, though her reason is to protect her love ones. She’s a complicated and a weird character. And that’s why I love her.

I think this is a perfect companion for Cruel Beauty, one thing that doesn’t quite perfect is it’s a novella. It’s too short while I want more of Maia and Lord Anax and even Kore and Thea, Maia stepsisters.

Result: 4 out of 5 stars
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Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

18052957Blurb from Goodreads

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.

ebook, 352 pages
Published January 28th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
language edition: English
series: Cruel Beauty Universe
genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
My Thoughts
So this book has a very pretty cover, one of the most beautiful cover in YA books I’ve ever read. Seriously, I feel like I can’t stop staring at it. It also has intriguing title and blurb that scream to me to read it. Add it with Beauty and the Beast retelling and from what I read on other reviews, it also has Greek mythology. I so love Greek mythology but most of YA books with Greek mythology didn’t work well for me or only has a little bit of it. With all of those good things, it seems too good to be true for me. That’s why at first I was kind of hesitated to read this book.First couple of chapters were quite surprising me, in a not-so-good way. I was confused with many things in this book. The worldbuilding and setting, it was hard for me to imagine it. It was quite complicated world I have to read carefully to understand and then picture it in my mind. Add it with the words choice that the author used. I found that there were unfamiliar vocabularies (at least for me) here and since English is not my first language, in a way I have limited vocabulary, I have to keep looking at the dictionary to know what it means. I also didn’t know and never heard of Hermetic which is one of the important thing in this book. So I have to rely on Google to know what it is. Long short story, I was confused!

On the other hand, the characters captivated me since they were introduced. I felt sorry for Nyx, the main character in this book, mad to her father, her aunt and her twin sister Astraia, and couldn’t believe how come her father has a heart to sacrifice her to the demon lord to pay his bargain. And I was so curious of the demon lord himself, Ignifex.The more I read, more curious I become. Hence, it was easier for me to read it once I got the main picture. And then my confusion turned into curiosity that kept me reading it. Since it’s a retelling I can guess where the story will go. But I also keep wondering and questioning whether my guesses were right and all the while the what, why and how keep swirling in my head. And I just love that feeling when I keep questioning and wondering the story I read. In some part it made me forget that it is a retelling. I felt this is a refreshing story, an unoriginal yet feel original story, if you know what I mean. And there is also one thing that I love from this book, Greek mythology as subplot.

So here I got Beauty and the Beast retelling blended perfectly with Greek mythology, though I have to say it also has so much more. In first part of the story, it was quite slow since Nyx needs to describe her world and its complexity but it’s written beautifully I can’t help to not love it. I’m glad I give this book a try because in the end I love love love it. After 23 books, I finally found my first five-stars worthy reading for this year!
Favorite quotes:
“Love—the kind that was holy to Aphrodite—was not something I had ever allowed myself to think about much. If you desired someone, if he comforted you, if you thought he might leech the poison out of your heart, was that love? Or only desperation?”
“Where you go, I shall go; where you die, I shall die, and there will I be buried.”
“They said that love was terrifying and tender, wild and sweet, and none of it made any sense.
But now I knew that every mad word was true.”
“Knowing the truth is not always a kindness.”
Result: 5 out of 5 stars