While I’ve read a lot of books I’ve really enjoyed over the past few months, it’s been a while since I’ve wanted to write so much about a specific character (or in this case, since there’s an honorable mention, two characters) but it was worth the wait. I was completely hooked by Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge from the first page, and it just got better as I got to know Nyx Triskelion better.
First off, here’s a description of the book (from the GEPL catalog): “Betrothed to the demon who rules her country and trained all her life to kill him, seventeen-year-old Nyx Triskelion must now fulfill her destiny and move to the castle to be his wife.”
Nyx is not a nice person. To me, this is a huge part of what makes her so compelling. She’s not a bad person, she’s just not very nice. She is bitter about her fate, hateful towards the father and aunt who seem to feel no sorrow about sending her to it, and immensely resentful of her sister, Astraia, who will be safe. She is angry and often cruel, and unable to keep all her rage and pain and nastiness inside her.
That said, she tries to do good. She has been trained her whole life to defeat the demon she is being sent to marry, and she really does want to accomplish this for the sake of her country and especially her sister. She really does love Astraia, despite the bitterness. And she has compassion in her that makes her pity and care for one of her demon husband’s enslaved minions, and even at times pity the demon himself.
On top of all these complicated stuff, Nyx is strong. Not in an action oriented way – don’t be fooled by the description. Nyx is not a physical fighter. But she is mentally tough, she is willing to try to be physical when she needs to be, and she is incredibly strong internally. You’d have to be, to spend half your life knowing you were being sacrificed to a monster and would likely die attempting to defeat him. And it is growing up with this fact that makes all of Nyx’s cruelty and nastiness so understandable – her anger, her bitterness, it all feels so real and realistic. It all makes sense. It would feel unreal, and boring, for her to be all sunshine and roses about her fate. I think this blend of goodness and cruelty, of strength and fallibility, is what makes Nyx such a riveting, fascinating, and wonderful character.
Before I finish, I want to give an honorable mention to Nyx’s sister, Astraia. Although she is a supporting character and we don’t get her viewpoint, I also found her to be fascinating. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it turns out that Nyx and Astraia have some unexpected commonalities, and that Astraia is also a fascinating and captivating blend of seemingly non-compatible personality traits and very real emotions.
Thanks to these two incredible characters, especially Nyx, plus the darkness, magic, and entrancing qualities of the castle, the demon, and the world they all exist in, Cruel Beauty is one of my favorite recent reads. I can’t wait to see what Rosamund Hodge does next (and re-read Cruel Beauty in the meantime!)