“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”
– Brigid Kemmerer
Fall in love, break the curse.
Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? 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.
I’ve been following Brigid Kemmerer as an author for almost a year now. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of her newest novel Call It What You Want at the beginning of the year and absolutely loved it. From there I moved on to Letters from the Lost which was emotionally hard-hitting with strong characterization and was so well written. From there the rest of her novels fell a bit flat for me. A Curse So Dark and Lonely fell in between for me. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. It was an interesting approach to the typical Beauty & The Beast retellings I’ve come across in YA that really caught my attention but I had a hard time getting into it for most of the novel.
This was a darker reimagining where the Prince has to complete his challenge of making a girl fall in love with him before he turn into a beast at the end of the season. He never turns into the same beast and once the transformation is complete he no longer remembers his human side and people die at his hands/teeth/claws. Should he fail in finding love before completing the transformation the season resets and the process begins all over again. After three hundred seasons this will finally be his last one and the stakes are higher than ever with war looming over his kingdom.
➽ Harper – The Princes’ possible Belle. She has lived a hard life on the streets of D.C. with her brother, Jake, where they must act as bill collectors for a crime lord thanks to debts left to them by their father who abandoned them when her mother’s cancer went from bad to worse. Harper also has Cerebral Palsy, and while high functioning, she has some difficulties walking normally and has pain in her leg. While on watch one night for her brother she sees a guy taking some girl into a back alley and decides to intervene only to be captured herself and taken to another dimension/world. There she meets a Prince, finds out the guy that captured her is his guard commander and learns she is now to be held captive by both in order to break some curse.
➽ Rhen – The Prince/Beast. Tricked by a sorceress for being shallow and egotistical he now has to make a girl fall in love with him to end the curse placed on him. What sounded easy and like a joke in the beginning now seems like an impossibility, but a deal has been struck making this season the final one and Harper as his last chance to break the curse and save his kingdom.
➽ Grey – Guard Commander. The only living person left from Rhen’s past life as Prince of Emberfell. He’s somehow managed to make it through seasons of slaughter and does everything he can to assist in breaking the curse, including grabbing girls from D.C. to bring back to the Emberfell. He’s loyal to a fault and it’s honestly a shame he wasn’t the Prince.
Harper, Rhen and Grey all come together to create a brand new Beauty & The Beast retelling unlike any other. Harper struggles with wanting to save the kingdom and the people she gets to know on her journey while also fighting wanting to be there for her sick mom and her brother who she left alone with no trace. Rhen, after seasons of failing to find love along with killing his family and friends, has some strong emotional walls put up to protect himself against his failures. He struggles with his own self-worth and deciding if he is even worth saving.
The book started out slow for me and ended up being one that took quite a while for me to really get into. I loved Harper. She was a strong female protagonist who knew her own mind and would always try her best to do what she saw as the right thing even when Rhen disagreed with her. While stubborn, she ended up being right most the time and really helped Rhen to reconnect with his kingdom and the people he’d left struggling due to his hiding himself away. Her Cerebral Palsy did not define her but was just another part of what made her so amazing. It didn’t slow her down but made her stronger and I think that representation was important. That being said though, I felt like towards the end of the book it stopped being mentioned? It was haphazardly mentioned during the end of the novel and I think it should have been mentioned more in those important final scenes to stay true to the representation we were being presented.
Obviously love is huge to the overall plot of the story. Harper needs to fall in love with Rhen to break the curse but Rhen also needed to fall in love with her. There was no insta-love but there was a bit of a triangle between Rhen, Grey and Harper. I personally shipped Grey and Harper since I had such a hard time liking and connecting to Rhen. Grey and Harper had that chemistry I was looking for from the beginning and the only reason Grey didn’t truly go for her was because of the curse. Rhen and Harper were more of a slow burn romance. I felt bad for the guy and I understand that Harper was with 300th try but he was very guarded and they seemed to have a hard time connecting with each other. I did like the way the story ended though so we could leave some things up to interpretation. Harper and Rhen had some good moments and I’m interested to see more of them in the next book.
Overall A Curse So Dark and Lonely was an interesting story that took quite a bit of time to get into. Harper was a badass and left the boys in the dust by being the true hero of the story. While there were a few good romantic moments I’m not sure I believe Rhen and Harper are really in love and am holding out hope for Grey and Harper. I will be reading A Heart So Fierce and Lonely since it will be told from Grey’s POV and I’m interested to see what comes next in the story.