Fall in love, break the curse.
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she's pulled into a magical world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.
All right! Here we GO! My first backlist review in... several months? I could not be happier to review A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, as it is one of my new favorite fantasies.
cover: Firstly, that COVER! Oh my goodness. The brambles, and that font reminiscent of swords and knives, and the beautiful blue. I especially love how "Dark" is highlighted with a colored shimmer. I know this is hardly relevant to the review, but everyone needs to know that THIS is how you design a text-centered fantasy book cover. This is the standard from here on out.
Anyways. A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that I flew through despite it being nearly 500 pages long. Kemmerer's writing was so lovely and I never wanted to put the book down. A refreshing take on the original tale, this novel contains lovable characters, an intriguing plot, and plenty of tension and romance. Curse (as I will be calling the novel from here on out, due to its six-word title) truly has it all. It is at the top of my list of Beauty and the Beast retellings, because there were so many twists on the circumstances of the story that reading it felt like reading a version of BatB, but with so many new and interesting layers. The story is complex and emotional but also easy to follow and oh-so-addictive. Part of that stems from the inherent likability of the characters.
I didn't even need to try in order to like Harper, Rhen, and Grey. Harper was so relatable... her reaction to being thrown into Emberfall from DC felt so real. She reacted just as I think I would, except a hundred times braver. Also, that cerebral palsy representation?! I love it! I don't have CP, so I can't speak to the accuracy of the rep, but I will say that we need more fantasy novel characters with disabilities who, like Harper, don't let their abilities define them. More characters who are well-rounded and bold and courageous and willing to fight and work around their limitations. When training with the guard, Harper said something that stuck out to me: "They believe her limp is the result of a war injury, but Harper is quick to correct them. 'I was born this way,' she'll snap, 'and I'm going to die this way, so teach me to work around it.'" That's so powerful to me. Harper's grit and resilience are refreshing: she is Beauty in this story, but she is often referred to as a warrior princess, and she never backs down. She's not wispy or weak, she's eager and strong.
Rhen and Grey are so interesting to me because of the circumstances of their friendship: Grey is the commander of the Royal Guard, as well as the only Guardsman left after the monster's attacks. Their relationship is based on the oath that Grey has sworn, to always protect the Prince's life, but they become true friends despite this. Rhen is protective of Grey, who thinks highly of Rhen even when he thinks of himself as a pitiable monster. It was an honor to watch their bromance develop.
On their own, Rhen and Grey are pretty cool as well. Grey warms to Harper fairly quickly, and I liked that he was her first friend in Emberfall. I like it when characters are honest with each other, because I get stressed with dramatic irony and miscommunication, so I appreciated that Grey did his best to help Harper learn about life in the palace.
Underneath his arrogant, princely exterior, Rhen was a total sweetheart, and I loved him for it. Men in novels showing emotion and vulnerability? I'm here for it! Even though he wanted his curse to be broken, he didn't manipulate Harper and gave her absolutely everything she needed. When she decided to save his kingdom, feed his people, or pay those who needed help, he was right behind her. Harper was exactly the motivation Rhen needed to go out and directly fix problems in his kingdom, and he knew it and acknowledged it. We love supportive and caring men in 2019!
I'll be the first to admit that I was hoping for a relationship between Rhen and Grey at the beginning of the book, but I warmed up to Harper + Rhen pretty quickly. Watching them come to trust each other despite numerous setbacks was truly magical, if you'll pardon the phrase. Like I said earlier, Harper was exactly what Rhen needed, and the circumstances under which they met allowed Harper to explore her fierce nature and fight for a goal. That's a power couple if I've ever seen one.
Overall, A Curse So Dark and Lonely earns 5/5 stars from me, as it is CLEARLY a retelling masterpiece that should be read for years to come. I eagerly anticipate the release of the sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken (1/7/20).
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of bookshop.org and I will earn a small commission if you click the above link and make a purchase.