This was one of the books that I always saw and like the look of but never really got around to reading. I’d seen a lot of great reviews about it and so when I saw they had it in my local library I decided to give it a go.
I love a retelling of fairytales. It’s always interesting to see how the author will take a spin on the original tale we know and love. And that is what A Curse so Dark and Lonely is. It’s a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast and this much is apparent since the beginning. So here we go; A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.
The story follows Harper, a girl living with her brother and mother in DC, and Rhen, the Crown Prince of Emberfall which is part of a world running parallel to Harper’s own. Similarly to the original Beauty and the Beast, the Crown Prince is cursed by an enchantress who forces him to relive the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over again until he finds a girl to fall in love with him. At the end of each season, he turns from a handsome prince into a beast of varying skins, tearing his own people apart until the season restarts and they must do the whole thing again with another girl. That is unless he manages to get one to fall in love with him during that season but so far he has not been so successful. It is when his Commander of the King’s Guard, Grey, sets out to find a new girl that they meet Harper. Harper tries to save the girl Grey tries to bring back to the castle and is taken there instead of the girl. Harper’s mother is dying of cancer in her lungs and her brother is mixed up with some dangerous men, forced into doing some equally as painful things to try and deal with a debt that was left by their father. She doesn’t have much to return to but they are her family and she loves them despite the hardships that would find her when she returned home.
So she fights, tries to flee, tries to bargain her way home but all with little success. She starts to see what is going on, sees a Kingdom dying without it’s King (or Prince) to protect them from invading forces and so she tries to use the magic of the castle to feed the hungry and make a difference for the people the Prince seems to have given up trying to protect. Together with the Prince and his Commander, they make up lies to try and deter the invading forces and protect the people of the Kingdom. They may not be her people but Harper decides to do what she can to help them with the time that she has. For once, the Prince seeks to do something else besides breaking the curse, seeing no hope in finding a way to get Harper to fall in love with him. A tentative relationship begins to build between the three but time is running out until the end of the season and with it comes the beast.
This was a brilliant book with characters with strength and heart. An unusual thing to see in books, especially YA, is a character with a disability. Harper has cerebral palsy, that much is clear from the beginning, but she does not seem to let it define her. In fact, she kicks ass despite it. She is a strong-willed character, who has had a tough life up until the time she is taken to Emberfall (and it doesn’t get easier for her there). She does not swoon so easily for the Prince and is, in fact, rather hostile towards him at first.
If I put a crystal gobley in this one’s hand, she’d likely smash it and use the shards to cut me.
But despite the hostility she feels towards them, she would not sit by and see them hurt. She fights for the people she does not know, helps a Prince and his Guard who kidnapped her and challenges and Enchantress with little more than a throwing dagger. Her disability plays little into her character, and in a way helps her to understand the struggles that others may be going through even if such struggles are not visible. She is a brilliant MC.
“Not all scars can be seen, my lady.” I drain my glass again. “I somehow think you have already learned that lesson yourself.”
Rhen is exactly what the original Beast is like. Arrogant and pig-headed and so sure of his wealth and power. Until it all comes crashing down and he is cursed for offering affections of the flesh so carelessly and then attempting to discard the enchantress when he tired of her. At first, he seems so sure that he could break the curse but as the seasons pass and he still has not succeeded and his beast has done undoable damage to those around him, he grows weary, tired of the torment that he has been forced to face. This will be his final season, one way or another, and he has resolved to end it and have his guard kill him before he becomes the monster forever. Despite his selfish actions, the curse is a heavy one to bare. He has lost everything to the curse, except Grey (although he believes Grey has only stayed by him through honour and duty alone), and it is a hard thing to see a man so broken, so ready to give up.
This isn’t a romance as such, the relationship that blooms is formed under duress and I feel it would take more story fora real relationship to form. Although Harper and Rhen are aware that this might not be real and don’t seem to rush into anything. There are opportunities for it to move into something more but both seem hesitant.
“I do not understand how she can fill me with such hope and fear simultaneously. I pull her hand to my chest and lean in to her, until we share breath. My lips brush across hers.
It is barely a kiss, but she is somehow closer to me, her body a pool of warmth against mine.
I want so desperately to turn it into more, to see where this blossoming attraction will lead.”
But in her absence from the castle at their time of need Harper seems to recognise that that isn’t anything really left for her back in D.C. and she has the chance for a different life. And Rhen begins to recognise that his feelings towards Harper are not solely to do with breaking the curse.
Grey is a brilliant character and I feel like there is much more to him than we have had the chance to appreciate. He is a fierce character and loyal to a fault, a fault that would have gotten him killed many times had it been under any normal circumstances. He warms to Harper, choosing to show her new skills and ways to defend herself, working around and with her disability. I thought at times that relationship was going to bloom between them instead of Harper and Rhen but I feel that there is perhaps still the chance for such things. There were so many close encounters with the two. Grey goes above and beyond the call of duty for Rhen, and then Harper, and it is through love that he does so. However, sometimes we aren’t all we seem and one realisation can turn everything you’ve known on its head…
It is set in a world I can’t wait to get to better explore. I can’t wait to see what other twists and turns lie in store for us. We got the chance to explore one small city but I hope that we get the chance to see more of this world and experience it with Harper as she does so.
I would also like to appreciate how beautiful this book is. I borrowed this from the library but I will be sure to add a copy of my own to my collection.
I have since found out that this book is part of a coming trilogy, Cursebreakers, and the next book, A Heart so Fierce and Broken, will be released in January 2020 meaning there is quite a while before the next one. However. I’m sure it will be worth the wait.
Until next time.
A Curse so Dark and Lonely
A Heart so Fierce and Broken
Untitled book 3
A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer