Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
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.
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
There is blood under my fingernails. I wonder how many of my people I’ve killed this time.
We all know the story. A selfish prince gets cursed to a life as a beast, until he can prove he’s learned the meaning of true love – and gotten her to love him back. Girl meets beast, girl is beast’s prisoner, danger ensues, and girl falls in love with beast. The day is saved.
Except…what if that isn’t quite how it happens? What if the man who kidnaps you doesn’t look like a beast at all? At least on the outside. And what if the girl is more interested in finding a way back to her family than in falling in love with a prince?
This take on Beauty and the Beast was so fun to read. I really enjoyed a lot of the characters, as well as the little twists and turns deviating from the story we all know and love. If you’re picturing Disney princess, stop right there – this book casts a darker light, both on the beast and the “princess”. In this retelling, the Beast is forced to relive each season, trying again and again to win a girl’s heart. At the end of each season, he turns into a different beast and kills more and more people. But after over 300 seasons, he’s reached the end of the road and the last of his chances: this season will be the last girl, and his last shot at saving his people and himself.
Prince Rhen: The Beast. Throughout much of the book, I didn’t feel like he’d learned very much from his curse – he still seemed pretty arrogant and self-centered to me. But he did grow on my towards the end. Each season, he tries to get a different girl to fall in love with him, before he turns into a different beast. When he fails, the season starts over again. But this is his last chance.
Grey: The Beast’s guard commander. Grey is loyal to a fault, and honestly one of my favorite characters in this book. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shipping him with Rhen, but unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass. Each time Rhen turns into a beast, Grey does his best to lead him away from his kingdom so he can’t harm any more of his people. He also goes out into the “real world” to kidnap each girl.
Harper: Our “Belle” character. Except this princess comes from the city, and has been living with CP her whole life. She’s not won over by the pretty palace, and she’s tough as nails. I really enjoyed Harper as a main character, and I loved the CP rep. I think it’s so important that this book never took the course of “curing” her CP with magic. Her disability was a central topic in the book, but it was never taken away.
“I was born this way,” she’ll snap, “and I’m going to die this way, so teach me to work around it.”
One of my biggest complaints in this story is that Harper’s home life was more of a side story. As much as she fought to get back to them, I wanted more glimpses into her old world. These characters and their storylines weren’t developed enough for me. Before Harper was kidnapped, she lived in DC with her mother, who’s dying of cancer, and her brother Jake. Throughout the story, we get to meet Jake (who I really strongly dislike) and discover that he’s gay and dating a black boy named Noah (who I want MORE OF because I loved him).
My other big complaint in this book was the villain. Enter Lilith: the woman who cast the spell on Rhen and his kingdom. Her reasoning for the curse is revealed partway through the book, and honestly it was pretty weak. I felt like she was basically evil without a good cause, and was mainly used a plot device. A world so dark deserved a better villain.
This was never a curse to be broken. This is a death sentence. The true curse has been the thought that we might find escape.
Unfortunately, I never really shipped the romance in this book. I couldn’t really get past the whole kidnapping thing, and I was really shipping two completely separate relationships other than the one I was SUPPOSED to be rooting for. Harper seemed too smart for Stockholm Syndrome, so I couldn’t buy into it either.
HOWEVER. I did have a blast reading this book. I am such a sucker for all things Beauty and the Beast, and this was no exception. Even though the end twist was predictable, I still was living for it, and I will definitely be reading the next installment. This book had a ton of rep, and I loved Harper and Grey – I can’t wait to see more of them.
Ultimately, this book is about choices, and fighting for what you want, no matter what cards you get dealt in life. It’s about not giving up, and learning from your mistakes. If you love fairytale retellings with a darker spin, this book is for you. I hope you love it as much as I did.
I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely releases on January 29, 2019.
*All quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change prior to publication.
Buddy read with Julie, Amy, Chelsea, Jules, Melanie, & Chelsea