Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Series: A Curse So Dark and Lonely, #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Release Date: January 29th 2019
In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.
Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was 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 barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But 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.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Thoughts On…
It’s the start of a new season, the three hundredth since Rhen was cursed, and with another chance he sends his guardsman out to bring back a girl who could free them from their never-ending cycle of blood and death. When Harper sees what she thinks is a girl being kidnapped from the streets of Washington DC she jumps in to save her, only to end up being transported in her place back to Rhen awaiting in Emberfall.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely opens at the beginning of Harper’s story, before she’s taken from her world to Emberfall, but it seems to open in the middle of Rhen’s. He’s been trapped living the same season over and over, and the first page of this book shows us not the beginning of his curse but his transformation back to human for the three hundredth time. Told through both Rhen’s and Harper’s POV it felt like A Curse So Dark and Lonely is both of their individual stories rather than one of their relationship.
Harper has no clue where she is, but adamant she won’t fall for Rhen she’s determined to get back home. When she tries to escape she runs into an attack against Emberfall’s citizens, people who have been closed off from the rest of their world and left without a royal family. Seeing his people for the first time since the curse struck Rhen realises if this is to be his last season he wants to ensure Emberfall’s survival, but other countries have sensed weaknesses and they’re preparing for war.
When it comes to fairytale Beauty and the Beast is one of the more retold stories, but A Curse So Dark and Lonely still had something new to offer. The main focus of this book isn’t so much on the romance between Rhen and Harper, Rhen has all but given up on ever being freed of his curse, but on the two of them working together to save Emberfall and its people. This is a slow-paced book, and probably not for everyone, but I enjoyed the way the story and the relationships developed.
Harper has been kicked down by life, her mother is dying and her brother is forced to hurt people to pay off their father’s debt, but she’s still fighting. She goes up against Rhen’s guardsman Grey to try and save a stranger in DC, and in Emberfall she butts heads with Rhen while trying to do whatever she can to protect his people. She’s stubborn, and while she doesn’t understand the tough decisions that need to be made as a ruler she seems to learn from Rhen while still being determined to help everyone she meets.
There is some well written cerebral palsy representation in Harper’s character, and she has a weak ankle, but it doesn’t define her character. She’s still more than capable of going toe to toe with Grey, still more than capable of fighting for the people of Emberfall and what she believes is right. The fact that she has cerebral palsy doesn’t define her character any more than her hair or eye colours does, it’s just another aspect of who she is.
Rhen has lost so much to the curse; he killed his family and all of his guardsmen except for Grey, and after three hundred odd seasons he’s lost hope he’ll ever be saved. When we first meet Rhen he seems hopeless, cold and withdrawn just going through the motions, but soon he realises there’s still something to fight for. Rhen was raised to one day take the throne, he is incredibly intelligent when it comes to things like strategy and politics, and since he was cursed all he has done is try to protect his people from the monster he turns into.
The relationship between Rhen and Harper was actually one of my favourite parts of this book; mainly because it wasn’t an insta-love or love at first sight one like you may expect in a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Rhen doesn’t expect Harper to fall in love with him, though as time passes he does start hoping for that, and Brigid Kemmerer builds up their relationships from rock bottom. As Rhen starts to open up to Harper, and starts fighting for his people, she sees more than the arrogant prince she first met.
One thing I was a little hesitant about was the hint of a love triangle we got in A Curse So Dark and Lonely. I loved the friendship between Harper and Grey and the complicated relationship between Rhen and Grey, which is an interesting mixture of loyalty and duty, and there were scenes in this book that made me think that if there is a love triangle it could be one of the rare exceptions I enjoy. I guess I’ll have to wait until the second book to find out for sure
Parts of the world building I loved, and other parts felt a little generic. I loved the introduction to Emberfall and the curse, while Rhen and Grey repeat the same three months over and over time outside the castle is still moving forwards, and I could picture the castle so clearly in my mind, the enchanted instruments that forever played their music and the mountains of food that was forever being prepared. However a lot of the setting outside of the castle and Rhen’s curse felt like it could belong to any fantasy book. There was nothing I read that set A Curse So Dark and Lonely apart and we didn’t get a lot of background to Karis Luran or her country either, which I hope is something expanded on in the next book.
As far as Beauty and the Beast retellings go, A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a favourite of mine. It has great representation, amazing character and relationship development, and even though the concept was one I’d read before this book had something unique that made it stand out from the rest. Plus the twist at the end already has me excited for book number two in this series.
What did you think of A Curse So Dark and Lonely? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.
All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.