There is blood under my fingernails. I wonder how many of my people I’ve killed this time.
It should come as no surprise to literally everyone that when I found out there was another story coming out inspired by Beauty and the Beast I knew instantly that I was going to read it. A Curse So Dark and Lonely follows Prince Rhen, cursed to relive the same season over and over again trying to find love or else turn into a monster when the season comes to an end, and Harper, a girl from DC who gets dragged between worlds to the cursed castle of Emberfall by mistake. But Harper has no time to be wooed by a Prince, her mother is ill and her brother needs her help and nobody – not even a powerful witch – will stop her trying to get home.
This early in the season , the other girls would sit by the hearth and gaze at me over crystal goblets, while I’d pour wine and tell stories with just enough devilishness to make them blush.
If I put a crystal goblet in this one’s hand, she’d likely smash it and use the shards to cut me.
There’s always an element of ‘is this Stockholm syndrome?’ to Beauty and the Beast retellings and explorations. Harper is taken against her will to a world she does not know and which she cannot leave until the end of the season and – if the monster finds her – may not leave at all. Rhen, however, accepts her initial insistence that she’s not just going to magically fall in love with him and despite his own hopes to the contrary he doesn’t constantly pursue her romantically trying to change her mind which is definitely a point in his favour. Also, unlike most retellings, Rhen is mostly very honest with Harper regarding the curse. Yes he is a Prince, yes he was cursed and the way the curse is broken is to find a girl who loves him. Yes there have been other girls, no they have not always lived. The relationship between Rhen and Harper, and their negotiations with one another, are a great dynamic that I very much enjoyed reading. Rhen’s loyal guardsman Grey is a wonderful addition to the cast of characters, all of whom are complex beings with their own motives and mannerisms.
“I have cerebral palsy,”she says quietly. “Do you know what that is?”
Kemmerer writes wonderfully, and her descriptions of the cursed castle, the monster and of Emberfall as a whole were gorgeous. I love a well-described fantasy novel and this definitely checked that box! It was also the first fantasy novel I’ve read with a protagonist and female love interest who has a condition affecting her mobility. Harper’s cerebral palsy is an integral part of who she is, she has been prevented from doing things her entire life by her disability, by the brother who can’t help but see her as weaker because of it. She walks with a limp, she cannot master the graceful elegance of many a fantasy heroine, but she carries a dagger at her waist and in her eyes and will not hesitate to cut short any attempts to degrade or belittle her. I found so much to admire in Harper, and I think she’s a fantastic character who I very much want to read more of. Rhen and Grey are quite the pair in their own right, and Rhen’s growth throughout the book, his hopes to save his Kingdom and his people even if it cost his own life, really do pull at the heartstrings. Then there’s Grey, the farm boy turned Royal Guard whose loyalty knows no limitations and whose ability to take down assailants is near legendary. I would not want to fight scary Grey and his throwing knives. Then we have OPENLY GAY CHARACTERS WHOSE SEXUALITY IS JUST ACCEPTED BY THEIR LOVED ONES AND THE PEOPLE AROUND THEM AND IT’S BEAUTIFUL.
“Are you truly so tired, my dear prince? Do you wish for me to end your torment?”
“Yes, my lady.” My voice is barely a whisper. The words are a plea. A prayer. Even if the end to my torment means the end of me, it would mean an end to the suffering my people have endured.
This novel took the isolation and hopelessness of the Beauty and the Beast tale and gave it new life. It took the cursed Prince into the kingdom he abandoned, and had Rhen and Harper search for ways to end the curse that wouldn’t just result from an unlikely love story. Whatever they feel, they want it to be real, and the people of Emberfall must come first to their monarch even as his humanity is at stake. I was approaching the end when I realised that this was going to be a series and I need to read the rest RIGHT NOW PLEASE. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely be reading future installments.
Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of 5
A Copy of A Curse So Dark and Lonely was provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.