When I was a teenager, I was a big fan of historical romance. In college, I would read Georgette Heyer
during exam weeks to relax. As an adolescent, I really liked that "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, Well, maybe you're not so bad" storyline in a historical setting. So I picked Cruel Beauty
by Rosamund Hodge
off the Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction
nomination list for one reason and one reason only: The main character has been raised to marry and murder a demon who has had control of her country since before she was born but falls for him before she can complete her task. Okay, it was paranormal and not historical, but I was dealing with a speculative fiction list, after all.
Now, though I seem to read a lot of fantasy, it's mainly because a lot of children's and YA books are
fantasy. It's not because I'm so fond of it. I don't get excited about fantasy elements, as a general rule. I'm not crazy about houses that are always changing, for instance, as the one in Cruel Beauty
does. I was kind of mystified about who the Kindly Ones were in this book, especially since there seems to be an alternative Greek mythology thing going on here and where do the Kindly Ones fit in? But that didn't matter because the demon was very witty and clever and our protagonist wasn't a particularly nice person, which I like in a heroine.
Yes, Teen Gail would have loved this thing. Cruel Beauty
should be on a list of teen vacation reading that is totally inappropriate for school papers.
But If You Want To Write A School Paper On It, Try Talking About Jane Eyre
However, if someone really wants to sell this as a subject for a high school paper, I think they might be able to do a Jane Eyre
comparison. Cruel Beauty
is being marketed as a Beauty and the Beast meets Greek mythology tale, but I kept thinking of Jane Eyre
was not assigned reading for me when I was a teenager. I read it on my own, as I read a great many things back then. I did not find it particularly memorable, except for the scene where poor Jane sits on the sidelines during an evening event at Mr. Rochester's house. That probably speaks volumes about my adolescence. I didn't become a fan of Jane's until I re-read it in 2003
after reading The Eyre Affair
. The Good Reading Fairy
had hit it, and I've become a bit of a Jane Eyre groupy, looking for and reading retellings
. Cruel Beauty
may not be an intentional retelling, but I still think an enterprising student could make a case that would convince a teacher to at least accept a Beauty/Jane Eyre
is about a prickly young woman who doesn't inspire affection in traditional relationships, such as the one with her aunt. In the course of acquiring what is by the standards of her time a good education, she is not treated very well. She enters a wealthy (wealth is power) man's home as a governess. Said wealthy man is unhappy and bitter over the life he has been forced to live. These two damaged, unromantic people find something in each other.
is about a bitter, angry young woman, her father's least favorite child, the one he bartered away to a demon. He provides her with what is by the standards of her world a good education so she can kill the demon he's marrying her off to. The plan will mean her death as well, explaining her bitterness and anger. She enters a powerful male's home as his wife. Said powerful male is amusing and attractive but resigned to a fate he brought upon himself, one we're not aware of for a while. These two damaged, I can't say unromantic because I'm sure we're supposed to think they are, people recognize something in each other.
In Jane Eyre
, there's a madwoman in the attic. In Cruel Beauty
, there's a little something in one of the house's many rooms.
Jane and Mr. Rochester's story in Jane Eyre
is framed with a beginning piece about Jane's rough youth with her family and boarding school and an ending bit about her suffering after she leaves Rochester. Nyx and Ignifex's story in Cruel Beauty
is framed with a beginning piece about Nyx's rough youth with her family and an ending bit about her suffering after she and Ignifex are separated. Some have argued that Mr. Rochester's blindness is a punishment for what he planned for himself and Jane, a punishment that was alleviated when Jane returned to him. A clever high school student could argue that Ignifex was punished for all he had done, a punishment that was alleviated when Nyx returned to him.
There you've got it, folks, the beginning of a Cruel Beauty/Jane Eyre
Wait! There's more! It's kind of a stretch, but if enterprising students wanted to, they could claim there's a bit of a torn-between-two-lovers thing going on in Jane Eyre
what with Jane being proposed to by both Mr. Rochester and that creepy minister named St. John. The author of Cruel Beauty
does something interesting with the torn-between-two-lovers cliche.
Okay, lads and lasses. You're welcome to this material, but put it into your own words.