A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

For those looking for a disappointing fairytale retelling: A Curse so Dark and Lonely.

Themes: fantasy, romance, curse, witch

The synopsis

Harper is not living the best time of her life: her father is gone, her mother is dying and her brother trying to pay back the family’s debt. So, she’s not very pleased when she’s kidnapped and brought to Emberfall to break the curse of Prince Rhen of Emberfall.

Prince Rhen has been cursed because of his arrogance and carelessness. He is now condemned to live his eighteenth year forever unless a girl falls in love with him and breaks the curse. And he has little time before he transforms into a blood-thirsty beast.

The review

Does the synopsis ring a bell? It must have since this novel is a retelling of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast in a darker, bloodier way. Here, the prince turns into a beast at the end of each season and kills anyone crossing his path. We’re far from the Disney version don’t you think?

The issue with this book is it doesn’t go much further than the original tale. A bad witch? Check. A cursed prince with his princess? Check. A crumbling kingdom to be saved? Check.

The author only added a subplot with another mean queen wanting to take profit from her neighbour’s weakness. There were no big surprises in this book since the author uses all the classic tropes of both fairytales and YA fantasy. In fact, I found the book quite slow and boring until the moment Harper returns home (it’s not a spoiler since it’s in the Disney version). However, what I liked about the writing was its simplicity and rapidity, with short chapters allowing frequent change in the point of views. The world-building is correct and gives the fairytale feeling since it takes place during autumn and winter (I always associate these seasons with fairytales). The main reproach I make to the author is the unceasing use of “my lady”. I swear I had an overdose of this expression and couldn’t take it anymore by the end of the book. I understand it’s for the sake of the setting and to show the different educations of the characters (the author seems to think it makes Rhen and Grey more regal). But truly, it just interrupted my reading because its use wasn’t fluid at all and not understandable at times. For example, even when the relationship between Harper and Rhen has evolved, he doesn’t use her name but “my lady”and she doesn’t seem to care (she makes a comment about it once at the beginning of the book and then nothing)…

No big surprises on the character side either. Rhen is the usual cursed prince charming, handsome, smart and selfish but in fact deeply caring for the others. Even his manipulative side is undeveloped. The character is no different from the one we know from the previous adaptations of the tale. Harper is the heroine with no richness but the goodness of her heart, not very pretty and this time with a physical disability. This was a touch of originality I appreciated and found well exploited in the plot. But it didn’t save Harper from being naive and applying her principles too quickly without considering the situation. Obviously she’s different from the other girls Rhen met and is the one that will save Emberfall by ending his apathy. His kingdom has been crumbling and his people dying for the past years but he had to wait for Harper to try to save them…

I enjoyed Grey more than the two main characters since he has I think a little more depth. He’s deadpan and seems to be upright until we learn something about him which reveals his past mistakes. The character of Lilith, the bad character of the book, was better built than the others and was a real representation of cruelty.

So, I didn’t feel a lot of things for these characters and the only feeling was against Jack (Harper’s brother) who really pissed me off. In fact, I think I liked the minor characters more than the main ones since I found they have more substance.

In brief: a YA retelling without much originality in both the plot and the character development. The author uses the usual tropes and even if it works I still find the book misses something. A read to calm the mind before a more complex reading or to enjoy a cup of tea under a plaid (if you have nothing else to read). You understood that I will not read the sequel.

My rating: 2,5/5

Trigger warnings: violence, war violence, death, suicide, attempted sexual assault (comments), terminal illness (cancer)

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