My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication Date: April 26th 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Point of View: 1st Person
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Soulmates, Magic, Destiny
Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
Inspired by Indian mythology.
All fantasy readers, are you ready to meet your favourite 2016 publication?
That’s right, it’s that good.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start reading this gem is the elegant writing. If it doesn’t sweep you off your feet, color me dumbstruck. I can’t imagine someone being immune to it. An angel must have written this story.
‘‘My kingdom needs a queen,’’ he said. ‘‘It needs someone with fury in her heart and shadows in her smile. It needs someone restless and clever. It needs you.’’
As I was reading the story, a thought kept popping up my mind: how the hell did Maya survive this long, even with those guards? Everyone simultaneously hates and fears her. Even her own father wants her dead. In a time when horoscopes act as gods and determine if a person is trustworthy or not and the kind of future that awaits them, your destiny better be bright.
Maya has the darkest horoscope of them all.
The Raja of Bharata, her father, decides to marry her off, in order to gain an ally for when the upcoming war bursts to life. So she gives up the sliver of freedom she still had and marries. But not to anyone—to the King of the Otherworld. She quickly learns, though, that there is more to Amar than charming promises.
I admired her strength and how feministic her values are the most. She wants more from life than to just be wife; she yearns for education, freedom and she doesn’t blindly trust men. And let’s not forget the fact that she plays the role of the saviour. Amar, too, is very intent on equality and treating Maya with all the respect she deserves.
‘‘My star-touched queen,’’ he said softly, as if he was remembering something long ago. ‘‘I would break the world to give you what you want.’’
I truly wish this was a series… When I turned the last page, I just couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye to the characters I grew, in only a few days, so attached to and therefore went back to reading my favourite passages to pluck beautiful quotes here and there. However, the author lovely concludes the story. You won’t be disappointed in that department.
I’m impressed at how automatically I liked the love interest. I didn’t even review his qualities or looked for flaws—it just happened, and quickly, too. Maybe you’ll find him a little too ‘‘intense,’’ but if the romance in Cruel Beauty worked out for you, I don’t see why you wouldn’t adore the relationship between Maya and Amar. You just have to know that Amar is a sweet talker, but he’s always genuine—or is he?
The world-building is a bit less developed than I thought it would be when I heard of the whole never-seen-before concept of horoscopes mirroring a person’s fate. Why? Very few settings and a lack of meaningful interactions with diverse secondary characters. Except, I took in consideration that this is a standalone and that it’s hard to well include both of those elements in a one-book story. On the plus side, you’ll find that the original plot, three-dimensional characters and gripping dialogs shine.
‘‘You know nothing about me.’’
‘‘I know your soul. Everything else is an ornament.’’