We have the exclusive cover reveal for CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge – a sweeping fantasy, hitting shelves on January 28, about one girl’s journey to fulfill her destiny, and the monster who gets in her way—by stealing her heart.
Ready to see the gorgeous cover?
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About CRUEL BEAUTY
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom—all because of a reckless bargain her father struck. And since birth, she has been training to kill him.
Betrayed by her family yet bound to obey, Nyx rails against her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, she abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, disarm him, 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. But even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, could she refuse her duty to kill him?
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.
Now for a few questions with the author. . .
CRUEL BEAUTY is your first novel. What inspired you to start writing, especially for teens?
Well, what first inspired me to start writing was a teenager. When my older brother was thirteen, he started a writing club with his friends and wouldn’t let me join because I was only eight. I promptly swore that I would become a writer and make him sorry. (I checked last Christmas. He still isn’t sorry.)
Why I started writing for teens, I can’t tell you, because I never set out to Become A Teen Writer. When I started writing regularly at age twelve, I understood the difference between YA and adult fiction. But my plan to dominate the publishing world and crush my brother’s spirit involved writing for all audiences. It was only years later, after writing my fourth novel with teenaged protagonists (CRUEL BEAUTY is the first novel I sold, not the first I wrote), that I realized I should probably consider myself a YA author.
What I can tell you is why I love writing for teens. It’s this: being a teenager is crazy. Everything you feel is new and confusing and white-hot. I read and write viscerally—as reader or author, I want to be swallowed up by the character’s emotions—so that kind of passion is like catnip to me. And that makes it extra fun to write fantasy, because all of that passion can be literalized. When I was a teenager, I very frequently felt like my problems were going to end the world. Writing stories where the characters’ problems could literally end the world is intensely validating—and lots of fun!
CRUEL BEAUTY is loosely based on the classic stories of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and BLUEBEARD. Did you read a lot of fairy tales and fantasy growing up? How did they influence your writing?
Sometimes I hardly read anything else! I also devoured a huge quantity of mythology, which has deeply influenced my writing. (In fact, Cruel Beauty is based almost as much on the myth of Cupid and Psyche as it is on Beauty and the Beast).
What I love the most about myths and fairy tales is how you are never just reading a story. You are reading the hundredth iteration of a story that’s been told for thousands of years. And when stories are told and retold for that long, they acquire a life of their own. They follow a peculiar, dream-like logic that doesn’t always make sense, but feels like it would make sense if you could just peel back a few more versions of the story. You can feel the bones beneath the skin. You look at the story, and it looks back at you.
And a good fairy tale retelling taps into that sense of story-behind-story. It feels inevitable. You read it and you think, Yes, obviously, this is what happened. This is what it means. Writing a fairy tale retelling feels like discovery, not invention. Why did I combine Beauty and the Beast with Bluebeard? Because I was thinking about those stories one day and I realized, Beauty married the Beast in order to kill him. She’s afraid she will die like his previous wives. That’s what happened. How else could it be?
The romance between Nyx and Ignifex is a steamy, breathless page-turner. What’s your all-time favorite literary romance?
I think that would have to be the love story between Lord Peter and Harriet Vane, which stretches across several novels in the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy Sayers. That may seem kind of random—they’re mystery novels, not fantasy, and since they were written in the 1930’s, they’re not what you’d call “steamy.” But Harriet and Lord Peter were actually a huge influence on Cruel Beauty. In the novel where they finally get together, one of the pivotal scenes is a conversation where they both agree that they would not compromise their principles for each other. I first read it when I was a teenager, and I thought that kind of idealism was too insanely hot for words. I still think it’s really hot, and also really interesting in the conflicts it can create, and that’s one reason that the conflict between duty and desire features so strongly in Cruel Beauty.
What upcoming YA book are you most excited to read?
Do graphic novels count? Because I absolutely can’t wait to read Gene Luen Yang’s upcoming Boxers & Saints, which tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion from the perspective of two teenagers: a boy who joins the rebellion to help free China from “foreign devils,” and a girl who finds friendship when she joins the Chinese Christians but then is in danger of being killed as a “secondary devil.”
But if we’re talking about regular novels: I am also really looking forward to Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the conclusion to Laini Taylor’s luscious Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy.
Tell us about GILDED ASHES, your digital novella set in the world of CRUEL BEAUTY.
It’s a retelling of Cinderella, which is a fairy tale that most people feel needs an explanation. Traditionally, Cinderella is sweet, obedient, and cheerful despite being relentlessly abused. Why doesn’t she rebel against her wicked stepmother? Why is she happy?
I started thinking about the Brothers Grimm version of the story, where Cinderella doesn’t have a fairy godmother; instead, it’s the ghost of her dead mother who gives her the dress and sends her to the ball. I wondered, why would a mother haunt her daughter? To protect her, of course. And suddenly it all became clear: Cinderella’s dead mother haunts the house and destroys anyone who makes her daughter cry. So no matter what her stepfamily does to her, Cinderella has to smile and be happy. Or all of them will die.
But, of course, everything gets a lot more complicated when she falls in love.