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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Cruelty is a dark romantic fantasy written by Ellen Crosháin. Eliza faked her death to get away from her family. It took a lot of time and planning, but finally she emerged, wet and shivering, from the wreckage of her car where it had crashed into a river. She changed her likeness with hair dye and tanning creams, but, nonetheless, six months later the Hound and the Cruel had caught up with her. Eliza was friends with the Hound and had no fear of him, but the Cruel was quite a different story. When she was small, she had secretly witnessed the return of her cousin, Josh, after his punishment for running away from the Family. While the Doctor could heal most of the horrific injuries the Cruel had inflicted on his body, Josh's mind had never recovered from the event. Eliza shuddered to think of the plans the current Cruel, a handsome youth with white-blond hair, had for her.
Ellen Crosháin's dark contemporary fantasy, Cruelty, is a captivating and intense read. The author quickly gets the reader involved in Eliza's plight in this well-written and absorbing story set in Ireland. Eliza is a marvelous main character; she's one of the Barren, a non-magical member of the Greater Branch of the Family, a disgrace and embarrassment to her family and kin, but she's unable to escape and live her life on her own. I loved seeing how she uses her mind to survive the very complicated situation she finds herself in. Crosháin uses the theme of chess moves throughout the work, and her embattled Eliza is a master at her game, though she does make some very daring and perilous moves. While there is a sensual theme running throughout the story, with some mild elements of BDSM, I was at no time offended or felt that the sensuality was over-the-top. It was, quite simply, an essential element in this intriguing and thought-provoking tale. Cruelty is most highly recommended.