A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Series: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Publication Date: 29th January 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Rating: 4/5 Shelfie Stacks 📚📚📚📚
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Brigid Kemmerer. The story is a dual perspective novel and alternates between Harper and Rhen’s narrative. It is set between Washington D.C and Emberfall, the fictional location of Rhen’s kingdom.
Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
- Beauty and beast fairytale retelling!
Fairytales are my absolute favourite thing to read; I even wrote my university dissertation on them. When I discovered this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling I knew I just had to read it. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding fairytale retellings recently so I’m pleased that this was a fresh and different interpretation on the original. Even if I hadn’t known prior to reading, it is made very clear that that this story is based on Beauty and the Beast. The novel sticks to the main idea of the girl falling in love with the monster to try and break the curse but diverts away from it in the fact that Harper actually does have a chance to get to know Rhen as a human before he turns. Therefore it’s almost like Beauty and the Beast but in reverse… Harper’s character is in no way a wallflower either and it was the style in which her character was written that was one of my favourite parts of the novel.
It’s Harper’s modernity that is what keeps this retelling fresh. She’s a girl from Washington D.C who is used to all of the mod-cons of today’s life. Not only that, but she has cerebral palsy and her brother is involved with some sort of violent loan-shark. I really liked the way that Brigid tentatively dealt with Harper’s affliction without it taking over the story – and I don’t mean that in an insensitive way at all. Brigid’s light touches on Harper’s condition resembled how living with a limp and the other aspects of CP is part of Harper’s reality everyday and how normal it is for her. Harper is very clear that she doesn’t want to be seen as weak just because of her CP and that strength shines through in volumes. I absolutely loved her character. She bounced off the archaic chivalry of Rhen perfectly and I felt like their pairing was a great match. Elsewhere in the novel, Grey broke up the dynamics between Rhen and Harper, I’ve heard in some places that their relationship is likened to a love triangle but I didn’t really see it in this way to be honest. I really liked the input of the Harper’s brother and Noah as well. Their reaction to Harper’s story and the world of Emberfall was brilliant and definitely had me chuckling in some places.
“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”
- Kingdom and Peoples of Emberfall
Emberfall seems like such a fun place to be – if you rule out the fact that a monster terrorises through the whole country periodically… The castle is your typical magical abode with mysterious music being played on instruments by invisible hands; food turning up deliciously cooked and seemingly from nowhere; the opulent surroundings of Harper’s room which are at odds with the visceral room of blood and gore; it suited this fairytale to a tee! I was so happy that we also got to see the wider world of the kingdom and meet the people of Emberfall. When Emberfall comes under attack from neighbouring territories and the evil enchantress Lilith, Rhen’s protection and sense of guardianship over his kingdom give the novel an added depth which sets it apart from older versions of the fairytale. It also provides for more action within the story which allows it to become meatier than just your average retelling.
- Brigid’s Writing Style
I loved how easy this book was to read. Every time I picked it up it was like sinking back into a big fluffy pillow. The split narrative was easily distinguished by having the name of the character at the start of each chapter but also through the different voices of Harper and Rhen themselves. Harper’s language was much more contemporary whereas Rhen had the refined elegance of a Crown Prince. It suited them really well.
“My father once said we are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”
For me, this is the one aspect of the book that just lost a little bit of love. Everything seemed to happen so fast and before I knew it all of the action was over and we were setting up for the next novel in the series. We sent so long in getting to know the charcaters and the kingdom, as well as the build up to the battle and the transition of Rhen from Prince to Monster, that I felt the transformation elements weren’t as well developed as the rest of the novel. Right at the beginning when Harper is in DC and Rhen is in Emberfall, the very blood underneath their fingernails is mirrored between their two narratives and I missed these little extra details and nuances towards the ending of the novel. Then from out of nowhere it just seemed to end and I’m still not even sure I’ve actually read the ending correctly…
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed A Curse So Dark and Lonely. It had me completely hooked whilst reading and was everything I was looking for in a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It is definitely more than just your average Disney-style echoing. The characters and world-building tied in neatly with plot. Although the cliffhanger of an ending left me slightly confused about what was actually happening, I’m keen to see where this series goes next. The sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken is set for release on January 28th 2020.
Have you read A Curse So Dark and Lonely? What did you think? Drop me a comment to chat!