Source: BEA 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date Completed: January 27, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
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.
A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY was so enjoyable from start to finish! I’ve been struggling with some YA reads lately so I was afraid that like many others I’ve read recently that this would fall into a pit of tropes, but this book soared beyond my expectations! Right off the bat, I loved the tone of the book and I think the crossover/connection between the modern world in Washington DC and the fantasy world of Emberfall really made a difference. The readers are able to get a unique twist on this fantasy concept with a modern voice from Harper and that old-world, medieval-type feel from Rhen.
You may have heard that A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY is a Beauty and the Beast adaptation and I thought that was done brilliantly! Concepts are taking from the classic fairy tale but still given their own twist. Not every piece of Beauty and the Beast was made to fit this novel and A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY also goes along its own paths, not needing to stick to the concept 100%. What I loved even more was seeing the book’s originality lead back to the fairy tale adaptation without realizing we were on that road and I was so impressed seeing things circle back around to the adaption in their own way. I’ve read a lot of retellings over the years and some stories stick too religiously to the original work so I was really happy to see how expertly the author’s original concepts were woven in with the inspiration from Beauty and the Beast.
The characters here were just wonderful and they really made this story what it is in so many ways. Harper is strong and fierce but the way that Brigid Kemmerer chose to craft this character was really special. There are so many badass YA heroines out there that get too cocky or are just magically perfect, but Harper felt more like a real person to me than most of those other leading ladies. I loved that Brigid Kemmerer included Harper’s cerebral palsy and how it was portrayed as the way that Harper was born and not as a disadvantage or weakness. It was also great to see Harper grow into her boldness, from being a little sheltered by her brother to being thrown into this fantasy world and having to make a name for herself, quite literally. She didn’t change in personality but merely let that side of her grow in the proper atmosphere and situation. The reader was able to see that potential in Harper and with her situation in Emberfall and the other people by which she was surrounded, Harper was able to really grow into her confidence and it really felt so natural.
Rhen was another fantastic character in so many ways. Harper originally felt that he was a cocky prince but really he had so many levels that unfolded as the book progressed. Readers learn of his remorse for everything that’s happened to the kingdom and how much he really took it all to heart. Rhen’s challenge in the book seemed to be with his emotions and feelings, having to trust in his heart and let go of some of his overthinking. Being forced to repeat so many scenarios due to his curse, he essentially has ages to plan without growing older and somewhat replaying the opportunity to fall in love to break the curse, he employs different strategies, none of which work, of course, because love can’t be won by strategy. Harper and Grey, Rhen’s commander, help Rhen learn how to trust his heart and not feel so forced to fall in love. He has to let go before he can really latch on.
One of my favorite things about the book was the romance, which doesn’t happen often these days. So many people get excited over big love scenes, passionate kisses, and fiery romances. I was all about this gorgeous slow burn romance that took its time and really established those deep emotions! It’s not quite a hate-to-love situation but since neither Harper nor Rhen trust each other (naturally), there’s quite a spark of mistrust and Harper’s brashness also leads to a few spats that have these two at odds in the beginning. I really loved that as well because it’s so much more rewarding seeing the two soften towards each other and really piques that curiosity if the two can manage to fall in love. That’s the whole point of the book so you assume it’s coming and yet there’s still the question if that really is what will happen and how they’ll both come to believe it. It’s so expertly crafted and those quiet, stolen moments were absolutely everything in this book! I love those moments more than anything in books and I think they’re some of the most special scenes to read.
Finally, there’s the fact that this book delivers something of its own with a few unique twists that I did not see coming! I loved the set up for the next book and reading something like this actually made me glad that it’s a series whereas usually I’m wishing for more stand-alones. I do think that this book could have been made into a stand-alone if that’s what the author had wanted and it would have been beautiful, but I’m also glad that I get to keep reading about these characters, this world, and this beautiful writing for a little bit longer!
Kept Me Hooked On: Retellings. I’ve been hesitating with some retellings as of late because they’ve been taking the adaptation a little too literally or leaning on it to tell the story, but this was such an excellent blend!
Left Me Wanting More: Depth. I think this could have gone juuuuuust a bit deeper and it would have been an absolute slam dunk! It was already wonderful but there was just a touch of something that could have been that one smidge better!
I enjoyed this adaptation so much. I’ve been a little hit-or-miss on fairy tale retellings lately because some are just not very well done but this was the absolute perfect blend of original and adaptation!