A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Information

Goodreads: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Series: A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1
Source: Library
Published: January 29, 2019

Official 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.

Star Divider

Review

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an enchanting, romantic tale perfect for fans of fairy tale retellings who want a slow-burn, swoonworthy romance combined with a more active, political take on “Beauty and the Beast.”  The novel introduces readers to protagonist Harper Lacy, who must fall in love with Crown Prince Rhen of Emberfall in order to break the curse that has consigned him to turning into a violent beast at the end of each season–but it takes readers beyond this classic love story and asks how Harper and Rhen can help the kingdom outside the castle doors, what steps they can take to protect the people of Emberfall, even if the curse is never broke.  The result isn’t perfect, as intricate political machinations do not seem to be the novel’s strength, but the ambition of making a “Beauty and the Beast” story more than a romance staged in an isolated palace and the the passion and complexity of the characters help make the story shine even through its small flaws.

The romance–and the two characters in it–is really the high point of A Curse So Dark and Lonely. It’s been a while since I read a novel where I was so invested in the romance, captivated as I watched the two characters come closer together slowly but surely, hesitant to trust each other but hoping they could–and then that the trust would turn into something more. This is a lovely, slow burn romance that builds over the course of the novel and brings the readers right along with it.

The characters themselves, however, are also wonderful as individuals. Harper is a bit rough around the edges, understandable since her mother has cancer, her father has run out, and her brother is apparently involved with the Mafia.  She’s no-nonsense and straightforward, but she is also kind and does what’s right even when it’s hard and even when it seems foolish. Rhen is equally complex, a man struggling with a curse that has lasted seemingly forever, tired of his fate but also hoping to do what he can for his people.  (A lot of readers prefer the guard commander Grey as the most interesting character; I like him, as well, and he is complex, but I actually think his real time to shine will be in the companion novel Kemmerer has planned.)

I had just a couple small issues with the book. First, the enchantress who has cursed Rhen doesn’t seem to have a plausible motivation.  There’s an explanation, but it seems flimsy. It doesn’t explain her desire to torture Rhen, Grey, and really anyone else any chance she gets or her apparent desire to see Emberfall as a whole burn to the ground. She’s a bit flighty and actually reminded me of Lucinda from Ella Enchanted the way she randomly pops in and out of places and causes unasked-for havoc, but inexplicably more sadistic than Lucinda. She makes sense as a plot-mover, not so much as a character, which is a shame considering how complex the rest of the characterization in the book is.

Second, I didn’t really understand all the political maneuverings in the novel.  I understand Kemmerer has written contemporary YA before, so maybe “how to run a country” is not her area of expertise, but I was a bit lost when things like “closing the borders and stopping all trade” were presented as “initially wise” moves that “protected the country.”  I also was not 100% clear on why all the royal guard was gone, why the prince was no longer communicating with his army or…anyone, etc. I think there are some obvious solutions to their problems that were never taken or addressed.

These questions did not ruin my enjoyment of the book, however.  I loved reading this take on “Beauty and the Beast” and meeting a cast of fantastic characters who all had to find ways to overcome their doubts and past mistakes to do what they could for other people. In many ways, the book isn’t so much about romance or even saving a kingdom as it is about personal sacrifice and finding strength in unlikely places. Highly recommended.

4 stars Briana

13 thoughts on “A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

  1. dinipandareads says:

    Great review! This was one of my highly anticipated releases this year and I have it sitting on my shelf already, but just haven’t got to it yet. Your review really makes me want to pick it up now–so I think I might just do that today!

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  2. Vish Patel says:

    completely agree with your review! i has read kremmers ‘elemental series’ and really liked them back when they released. I felt that in this book they level of world building and complications and all the details were still on that level….of the books she released 5-8 years back, in the fantasy realm that is. But the whole YA/Fantasy scene has become so much more than what it used to be that her story fell short. plot n all amazing, but she just didnt dive right into it. more like swam on surface and hoped that it would work like it did many years ago. Her romance books are on point but romance is also universal n no matter how epic or small lovestory is, it will always be celebrated so those books work well, but she really needs to up her YA game.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I liked the idea of a Beauty and the Beast retelling that started with deal with a larger fantasy world, but I do think she struggled a bit with the balance between “typical romance retelling” and “epic fantasy” because the bar for world building and for political issues can be really high.

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  3. HawtMess says:

    Love your review. Just read this myself and haven’t reviewed yet. It never occurred to me the political maneuvering, another thought is after that decision why has it taken so long for that obviously hostile neighboring kingdom to come knocking? Myself, I both love and hate how Harper has CP but the author doesn’t really elaborate on it much like it’s an afterthought.. which is an interesting way to portray the disease but there are so many levels of CP and it’s symptoms I wish it hadn’t been glossed over so much.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I agree it’s not really clear why they took five years or so to start thinking about invading, particularly as the fairy seems to be feeding them information. She could have told them to invade three years ago because the prince wasn’t doing anything to protect the country, and it would have worked.

      I think she may have taken the stance that the story is about someone with CP but not necessarily about CP, but I agree there are different experiences of it, and Harper’s particular experience probably could have been elaborated on a bit more.

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  4. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    I do agree that the characters were complex, even if I’ll admit I didn’t totally fall for them. Definitely agree that the enchantress didn’t have great motivations and that the political shenanigans didn’t make a whole lot of sense. glad you enjoyed it overall- great review!

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