Book Reviews

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Unfortunately A Curse So Dark and Lonely wasn’t my cup of tea, but if you really like Beauty and the Beast re-tellings, then I think it’s still worth reading.

Summary

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 Lacy. 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.

Review

So I would like to preface this by saying I am not a huge fan of “Beauty and the Beast”. I don’t hate it, I’m just not obsessed with it. Perhaps you might be asking me why I wanted to read A Curse So Dark and Lonely then? Well I adore re-tellings and I hoped that this book would transcend the original for me. (That being said, I am totally here for the sequel because I am pretty sure I’ll love it more than this one, but that’s for another day). As a whole A Curse So Dark and Lonely wasn’t bad by any means, it just didn’t wow me.

The Characters

I liked a lot of the elements, they just didn’t come together with the sparks and fireworks I would have liked. Harper is, from the get go, incredibly spirited and I loved that about her. Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel like Harper’s character had a lot of depth. We know that she is a good person and loves her family deeply, but I never got a sense of what made Harper tick. Do I know Harper’s idiosyncrasies, or her favorite memories? Not really.

(I do want to mention that Harper has cerebral palsy – since I haven’t seen it in the back matter. It is shown in the book that she doesn’t let her physical disability hold her back. And the acknowledgements mention Kemmerer’s sensitivity readers and research).

But am I also the only one who didn’t really love Rhen? There was something tragic about the fact that this was almost like “Beauty and the Beast” meets “Groundhog Day” meets a very cruel enchantress. And so for that reason, I really did empathize with Rhen (although he was basically kidnapping people off the streets of DC, like Harper). So I enjoyed how Kemmerer incorporated this element.

Unfortunately the whole contemporary setting felt a little forced. There was so much of it re-emerging in the last half of the book which, I understand the parallels from the original, but it felt rushed and incomplete. Additionally the ‘villain’ of the enchantress who casts the curse at the beginning felt one dimensional to me. I mean we understood that she was cruel, but she didn’t transcend that.

Themes

A Curse So Dark and Lonely examines the differences between choice and necessity. Rhen and Harper make very clear the differences between what they choose and what is necessary to break the curse. At the same time, they must figure out how to make the choices about what is best for us and how do we weigh the lives of those around us. This is particularly important for Rhen and his overall character development considering his own back story.

Additionally, we are asked if we can forgive others for their past mistakes, their lies, and deception to see the best in them. In A Curse So Dark and Lonely this question is asked more acutely than in the original because we spend so much time in Rhen’s head.

Overall,

As a whole A Curse So Dark and Lonely moves really slowly. Kemmerer is trying to slowly reveal Rhen and what happened to him, but I found that the first half of the book dragged. Maybe it’s because, for the most part, the book follows the general lines of “Beauty and the Beast” so there isn’t that same mystery drive. But I had to really push myself through to the half way point. In the first half I did appreciate how Kemmerer shows the reader that the curse torments everyone – Rhen, Grey, and the people in the kingdom. So while there were elements in A Curse So Dark and Lonely that I appreciated, it never really made it to a book I really liked. That being said, my favorite character, by far, was Grey, Rhen’s captain, and it is clear from the ending that this is a direction that can be expanded upon for book two. Which is why I am so excited for the sequel.

I know how I get about re-tellings I love and originals I need to see in every possible way, so I think if you love “Beauty and the Beast” I think you might enjoy this book.

Find A Curse So Dark and Lonely on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.

Discussion

What is your favorite YA re-telling?


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