A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (Spoilers!)

A Vow So Bold and Deadly Instagram photo

Information

Goodreads: A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Series: Cursebreakers #3
Source: Purchased
Published: January 26, 2021

Official Summary

Face your fears, fight the battle.

Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

Star Divider

Review

Spoilers for the whole series.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly drops readers right back into the conflict between Emberfall and Syhl Shallow, which, frankly, is actually a conflict between Rhen and Grey. Accordingly, the story is fast-paced and exciting but really focused on the interpersonal dynamics of the characters– which is where it excels at some parts but fails at others. As in A Heart So Fierce and Broken, Kemmerer seeks to make her characters nuanced, but the execution sometimes just makes them seem cruel.

The entire A Curse So Dark and Lonely series is riveting. The first book caught my attention with its original twist on a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling and its swoonworthy romance, as well as Kemmerer’s attention to making her characters seem real: strong and brave but also flawed and with certain things they have hang-ups about. And I’ve continued to be engaged with the entire series, turning page after page wondering to find out what will happen next– even if what will happen next is sometimes a bit obvious.

However, after book one, I’ve struggled a bit with Kemmerer’s characterization, mostly of Rhen but also of Grey. In A Heart So Fierce and Lonely, Kemmerer seemed to be getting at the fact that Rhen is traumatized after spending a magical eternity being tortured (completely fair, and something I’ve been seeing more books address instead of just letting characters move on from horrible events with no apparent effect on their mental health). She continues that theme here, showing how frightened he is of magic and how far he’ll go to protect himself, his friends, and his kingdom from magic. However…none of this can erase the events of book two for me, where Rhen whipped his friend, whipped an innocent child to manipulate his friend, and then murdered a bunch of innocent people while mounting a manhunt to find Grey. The book ultimately latches onto a theme of, “Does one bad choice erase a thousand good choices?” but when the “one” bad choice is actually several, and Rhen literally killed innocent people, this theme isn’t as effective for me as Kemmerer probably hopes it is.

Worse, Kemmerer tries to set up Rhen and Grey as two halves of the same coin: that is, that both of them did something wrong, so they’re both at fault, they both need forgiveness, etc. However Grey’s “crime” is not telling Rhen he is the rightful heir (when he also knew Rhen was interested in killing the rightful heir). So it’s really hard for me to believe that Rhen’s and Grey’s faults are on the same level. I really do appreciate that Kemmerer wants her characters to be flawed and gray and to explore the idea that people in power sometimes make tough choices, and sometimes those choices are necessary and sometimes they’re just wrong, but I didn’t really come away feeling Rhen and Grey are nuanced, just that the book was dragging me back and forth saying, “They’re good! No, now they’re bad! Now they’re nice! Now they’re cruel!” It all feels a little disjointed.

Harper and Lia Mara are more evenly drawn, and I found the idea they were both more interested in peace than the men interesting, whether or not that was intentional commentary on the part of the author.

Overall, I truly did love reading A Vow So Bold and Deadly. It has action and magic and a few plot twists. It strives to do interesting things with its characterization and not just give readers pure heroes. I don’t think it always lived up to its goals, but story is still engaging, and I look forward to reading more from Kemmerer.

Briana
4 stars

6 thoughts on “A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (Spoilers!)

  1. Abby @ Beyond the Read says:

    I completely agree Briana!! I love this series but the points you made about Rhen and Grey’s characterization are 100% valid. I was also confused at times about why Grey’s actions were portrayed as “bad” when Rhen was the one who messed up. But I loved the book overall and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kemmerer’s fantasies!! Great post ❤️

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I was stumped all the way through book two about why Grey is apparently such a villain, and I was hoping it would be clarified in this book but…no. He’s bad because he didn’t tell Rhen he was the heir so Rhen could murder him???? That seems like a fair decision to me! But, yeah, I loved the series anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sammie @ The Bookwyrm's Den says:

    I think it’s so funny, because my reaction to Rhen and Grey in book two seems to be opposite everyone else’s. xD To me, Grey is the bigger villain, because there’s literally no reason for him not to tell Rhen that he’s the heir and hash it out with him. I refuse to believe that Rhen would’ve killed Grey had he known it was Grey, because they supposedly had an established relationship. It wouldn’t be this big, unknown threat like it was made out to be. It would just be … Grey.

    I don’t necessarily agree with Rhen’s actions, but I get where he’s coming from. You have a man who’s just been tortured for a thousand years by this magical being, whose kingdom has been utterly destroyed and everyone he cares about killed. Then this magical being implies that there’s this heir that will rise up and do the same all over again, and without knowing who the heir is, he has no reason not to believe this to be true, as the only experience he’s had with magic has been during his torture. When you weigh the ramifications of letting a magician murder half his kingdom again vs. whipping an innocent boy, yeah, it’s a shame that the boy ends up being collateral damage, but in his mind it’s literally one whipping (which he’ll survive) versus the death of half the kingdom or worse.

    I am soooo in the minority here with this, though. xD I don’t think I’ll read the third book, because I really disliked the way the second went with characterization, though I do want to read more from Kemmerer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’m glad you shared that interpretation because I’ve been scratching my head for two books wondering where Kemmerer is coming from, trying to build up this whole moral conundrum that both people are right and both are wrong, when to me it looks clearly like Rhen is the bigger jerk (though I can also see why, given his trauma). So maybe Kemmerer is thinking along the lines you are !

      Like

  3. Jennifer Tennant says:

    Tbh I really struggled with the ending… I HATED it. I feel like there was so much potential and instead it went down the drain- very unpopular opinion. I was very disappointed with Rhen’s ending. There was so much pain there and he lost too much- plus him and Amber seemed to be at such odds at the end. The fandom page says that they got betrothed but I never saw that? Soooo confused.

    Like

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