("Her mission was to kill him. Her destiny was to love him." What a tag line!)
(Do you see it? Cruel Beauty = Beauty and the Beast! I love it.)
I thought Cruel Beauty was really really really super great, all the way up to the very end. I loved the twists on the classic story: the whole story takes place under a dome; everything under the dome (the whole village, and the Dark Lord's/Ignifex's castle) is under the Dark Lord's control. There wasn't quite enough discussion about this whole dome situation for my taste. I needed a little more atmosphere-building. Nyx's father is pretty powerful and rich, so we don't see at all how the dark magic affects the villagers. Also, Nyx's father is super smart. He uses magic sigils to create all kinds of devices like lamps and medicines and clocks. So part of the plan to take down Ignifex involves having Nyx learn how to find "hearts" and trace counter-sigils to disable them. If she's successful, Ignifex and his castle should just fall to pieces.
So that's one twist on the classic. Another twist comes in the form of shadows. Town lore says that if you stare too long at a shadow it'll make you go insane. This is mostly true, but it's because shadows are actually beings. They cry and cry and drive you mad. So Nyx is very hesitant when she first meets Ignifex's servant, Shadow. He IS a shadow! There's a big twist at the end regarding the shadows and Shadow and the shadow creatures, but I won't give it away.
Which brings me to the end. I hate to admit it, but I didn't quite "get it." It felt just a little rushed. Not too bad, and I'd have forgiven the rush if I only understood it a little better. And I didn't get it! I consider my reading apprehension to be pretty high, so I get a little ticked when I don't easily understand things. But really it was only the last couple chapters that threw me so Cruel Beauty still deserves every one of it's four of five stars. I definitely recommend this book; maybe someone else will catch on to the ending better than I did.