ARC PROVIDED BY BLOOMSBURY
Hey there, bookish friends! Guest reviewer Denise here to report on A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.
In a strange twist of fate, Harper Lacy, a fiercely independent teenager who refuses to let her cerebral palsy define her life, gets pulled out of DC into a strange otherworld called Emberfall. She meets Rhen, a “boy prince”, cursed by an enchantress thanks to his careless actions and doomed to an endless cycle of reliving the autumn season of his 18th year and turning into a beast at the end of each autumn. Unless he finds the right girl to fall in love with him…
I loved watching the original Beauty and the Beast growing up! But around the time the live action with Emma Watson came around, by then I had also read an article shedding light on topics that never occurred to me about the storyline. Stockholm syndrome anyone? Falling in love with your captor? Being such a smart cookie with bigger dreams than her town could offer only to “settle” for marrying a prince? The part of me that is slightly a feminist surely lamented on the holes in this fairytale.
But then in comes A Curse So Dark and Lonely and Harper, the Belle of the book. Her character and the plot itself are the lifelines of this book.
I’ll be honest, I am personally not the biggest fan of first person narratives, which, to my initial dismay, this book was. The narration seemed a bit stiff and blunt to me at various points in the book and it is not as descriptive as I would like it to be in order to truly build and develop the world, the characters, and their relationships in it properly. Due to that, this book read more to me as a shallow, but therefore very easy-to-read, book. But what kept me reading still was my curiosity of Harper’s growth as a person as she slowly acclimates to and tries to help save Emberfall from an encroaching enemy nation, all the while refusing to be the one to break Rhen's curse. Toss in Rhen’s narrative that does not shy away from the nitty-gritty POV of a young man aged mentally by despair and depression, struggling to become the King his people need and the compassionate person that has been beaten down by the curse, and you’ve got a the start of an intriguing story line.
Harper, in her escapes from the castle, drags Rhen out from being cloistered in his castle and makes him confront the realities of leaving his kingdom in disarray while cursed. It forces him to stop hiding and keeping the world around him stagnant. He begins to fight for his people again, thanks to Harper’s unrelenting compassion. It also brings Harper closer to the people of Emberfall and endears her to their plight. With her quick wit and forethought, she becomes their fiercest defender, known as the “princess from the foreign country of Disi”, and I think, without her quite realizing it, her cerebral palsy takes a big backseat, showing that she is more than just her disability. And throughout the struggles to keep their kingdom afloat, Rhen struggles with breaking free from the last season of the curse allowed and the machinations of the enchantress that ruined his life...
I can’t say too much else without giving away how this plot twists and turns and ends, but I’ll say this: this retelling is not quite the same as the original storyline. Brigid Kemmerer surely has changed it into a story that can stand under its own two legs.
Assistant Librarian and Minder of Cats