A Curse So Dark and Lonely – Brigid Kemmerer – A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1 – Bloomsbury YA – Published 29 January 2019
Prince Rhen is cursed. He spurned the wrong woman and is now forced to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year until he can convince another to love him. His fate would be bearable, but at the end of every season, he transforms into a dangerous monster. After his subjects learned to fear the castle on the hill, Rhen sent Grey, the last member of his guard, to find young women in other worlds.
Harper is cursed by reality. Her father left and her mother is losing her fight with cancer. When Harper sees Grey abducting a woman from the streets of D.C., she intervenes, only to get sucked into Rhen’s world. Now, Harper is trapped. But when Harper proves to be more than just another girl to charm, Rhen realizes he can do more than break the curse . . . he can save his kingdom once and for all.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an absolutely incredible fantasy novel. Fantastical, thrilling, unique, and so very cleverly plotted, I was entranced from the first page to the last. I love Brigid Kemmerer’s writing and all her books, so I knew I would enjoy A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but I was totally blown away. This Beauty and the Beast retelling is the very best retelling of this, my favourite, fairytale I have ever read – and I have read a few. It is clever, original and, well, I’m seriously impressed.
Harper is barely scraping by. Her mother is sick and needs treatment they can’t afford and her brother is being forced to work as a violent debt collector to pay off their own debts. Workings as a lookout for her brother one night, Harper intervenes when she sees a man carrying an unconscious women. The man and Harper both receive a shock – he with a blow to the head and Harper when he magically transports her to another world. Commander Grey has done everything he can to help Prince Rhen break the curse that binds them both. While Harper wasn’t his ideal choice as the last maiden to attempt to break the curse, she continues to surprise them all with her caring heart and determined and independent ways, especially when Rhen’s kingdom is threatened by external forces.
What can I say about A Curse So Dark and Lonely except that I loved everything about it. While the basic threads of the fairytale are consistent – cursed prince needs a girl to fall in love with him – everything else is unique and cleverly twisted to feel like an original story. A Curse So Dark and Lonely reads more like a modern epic fantasy than a simple retelling, with action, looming wars, political intrigue, a fantastical beast, and layered, complex characters.
Harper has to be one of my new favourite heroines – strong, brave, caring and independent. Harper has Cerebral Palsy which gives her some physical challenges, but it never slows her down much or stops her racing headlong into dangerous situations to defend others. She is clever, and while she isn’t sure she can help Rhen break the curse in the traditional way, she has no problem plotting with him to help defend his kingdom. Rhen himself, his curse and the mix of grief, guilt and anger he feels about his actions and powerlessness to break the curse, all bring further complexity to the story. I also loved the addition of Grey. Rhen’s lone remaining solider and protector; I loved the stoic role he plays.
Then there is the romance. Oh, my gosh!!!! I don’t want to give too much away, but let me say I think it will surprise you. The best part about the romance is the parts that are not there. Harper’s intelligence and independence mean she does not fall blindly in love, have her head turned by empty words, nor get roped into something she doesn’t fully feel. What she feels, what Rhen feels, is complex. Trust me. It’s brilliant.
A surprise twist at the end means this series is set to continue in a very intriguing way. I can’t wait to continue the story of these characters and the kingdom of Emberfall. I love what Brigid Kemmerer has done with this fairytale and can’t wait to see where she takes it next. I highly recommend this book for fairytale and fantasy lovers and fans of strong protagonists.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Fairytales, retellings, magic, curses, cerebral palsy, kingdoms, grief, family, love, princes, debt.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Violence. References to sexual relationships, no details.
Published: 29 January 2019 by Bloomsbury YA.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 496 pages.