A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY, by Brigid Kemmerer, Bloomsbury YA, Jan. 29, 2019, Hardcover, $18.99 (young adult)
In October, I reviewed Beast, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Lisa Jensen. It was intriguing but very dark. Fast forward a few months and Brigid Kemmerer is tackling the same source material with a decidedly different outcome with A Curse So Dark and Lonely.
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. 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.
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. —Synopsis provided by Bloosmbury YA
While the two main female characters in Beast and A Curse So Dark and Lonely are the “Belle” character from the classical tale, they approach their circumstances in decidedly different ways. One is fueled by hate, the other with the love of her family. I have to say I preferred the latter in all aspects of the book.
Harper isn’t looking for a prince or anyone — for that matter — to save her. She’s learned to be strong and rarely lets her cerebral palsy hold her back. When she first arrives in Emberfall, Harper does everything she can to escape. She didn’t directly make the choice to join Rhen, and when she learns how many girls came before her, she is furious.
Harper is a complex character, but she’s not the only one. In a genre where the “princess” is the star, it’s nice to come across a tale where the prince is just as well fleshed out. Rhen is flawed and is better for those imperfections.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is the third novel I’ve read from author Brigid Kemmerer, and it’s a departure from those contemporary books. The one thing that runs throughout all, though, is Brigid’s attention to plot and smooth prose. A Curse So Dark and Lonely is one of the stronger fairytale reimaginings I’ve come across lately.