Cruelty by Ellen Croshain: a review

CrueltyA review of Cruelty by Ellen Croshain.

Once a year, in the caves deep below the house, the Family gathers to perform a ritual to appease their god. But Faroust only accepts payment in blood. Eliza MacTir, youngest daughter of a powerful Irish family, was born into fae gentry without the magical gifts that have coursed through the Family’s veins for millennia; she was an outcast from her first breath. Desperate for freedom, Eliza’s flight from rural Ireland is thwarted by the Family’s head of security. The only weapon she has to fight her captor is her own awakening sexuality. Drawn into the world of magic and gods, Eliza must find a way to break free, even if it means breaking the hearts of those she loves, and letting her own turn to stone. Cruelty, it runs in the Family.

Haunting. Twisted. Passionate. Cruel. Gripping.

Eliza thinks she is worthless to her family – Barren, unable to do magic, not even worth much as a marriage bargain. Found after an attempt to flee, she makes a bargain with her captor, and becomes his partner – and soon finds out that to protect the Family, they have to understand the truth about the God who has protected them for thousands of years…

It’s almost horror, but for the humanity. Almost erotica, but for the twisted suspense of the plot. Almost a love story, except for the warped, painful morality. Almost real, except for the magic. And somehow, every strand of the story, every twist of the plot and twitch of the characters, all comes together into a gripping, painful and brilliant read.

I read this book all in one go, and then went back to it; it’s one that I can dip in and out of, yet is no less horrifying or gripping for the second or third reads. There is a lot of (very well-written) sex, violence and horror; the sex is frequent, but does spin the plot along to a certain extent, and the violence likewise serves to remind us exactly what is at stake. The Family and all of its members are contrary, changeable, human and believable and understandable. Eliza is manipulative and annoying, but still a heroine, dangerous and brave; Faroust is capricious, cruel and gentle by turns, and Cornelius’ character arc is very well written. The plot is strong throughout the book, with twists that I couldn’t even start to predict; the magical aspect is explained well, and doesn’t dominate. And the ending…beautifully cruel, delightfully twisted, and still horrible even when we know the baddy entirely deserves it.

Overall? A twisted, horrifying, lust-filled, gripping and wonderful read that I would highly recommend.

Available from Amazon.

Disclaimer: Ellen’s a fellow-Grimmie, but I haven’t been paid or perk’d to write this – if I hated it, I’d say so!

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.