"Has everything you'd want in a retelling of a classic fairy tale." - Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things
"Absolutely spellbinding." - Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Caraval and Legendary
In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.
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. 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.
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About the Author
Brigid Kemmerer is the author of Letters to the Lost and the Elementals series. She was born in Omaha, Nebraska, though her parents quickly moved her all over the United States, from the desert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to the lakeside in Cleveland, Ohio, and several stops in between, eventually settling near Annapolis, Maryland.
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There is blood under my fingernails. I wonder how many of my people I've killed this time.
I thrust my hands into the barrel beside the stables. The ice-cold water bites at my skin, but the blood clings. I shouldn't bother, because it will all be gone in an hour anyway, but I hate this. The blood. The not knowing.
Hooves ring against the cobblestones somewhere behind me, followed by the jingle of a horse's bridle.
I don't need to look. My guard commander always follows at a safe distance until the transition is complete.
Guard commander. As if Grey has men left to command.
As if he didn't earn the title by default.
I swipe the water from my hands and turn. Grey stands a few yards back, holding the reins of Ironheart, the fastest horse in the stables. The animal is blowing hard, its chest and flanks damp with sweat despite the early-morning chill.
For as long as we've been trapped here, Grey's appearance is somehow a continual surprise. He looks as young as the day he earned a position in the elite Royal Guard, his dark hair slightly unkempt, his face unlined. His uniform still fits him well, every buckle and strap perfectly arranged, every weapon shining in the near darkness.
He once carried a gleam of eagerness in his eye, a spark for adventure. For challenge.
That gleam has long since gone dark, the only aspect of his appearance that is never remade by the curse.
I wonder if my unchanged appearance startles him, too.
"How many?" I say.
"None. All of your people are safe this time."
This time. I should be relieved. I am not. My people will be at risk again soon enough. "And the girl?"
"Gone. As always."
I look back at the blood staining my hands, and a familiar tightness wraps around my rib cage. I turn back to the barrel and bury my hands in the water. It's so cold it nearly steals my breath.
"I'm covered in blood, Commander." A lick of anger curls through my chest. "I killed something."
As if sensing danger, his horse stomps and dances at the end of the reins. Grey puts out a hand to calm the animal.
Once there would have been a stablehand rushing to take his horse, especially upon hearing my tone. Once there was a castle full of courtiers and historians and advisers who would have turned over a coin for a bit of gossip about Prince Rhen, heir to the throne of Emberfall.
Once there was a royal family that would have frowned on my antics.
Now there is me, and there is Grey.
"I left a trail of human blood on the path out of the forest," he says, unaffected by my anger. He's used to this. "The horse led a good chase, until you fell on a herd of deer in the southernmost part of your lands. We stayed well away from the villages."
That explains the condition of the animal. We traveled far tonight.
"I'll take the horse," I say. "The sun will be up soon."
Grey hands over the reins. This final hour is always the hardest. Full of regret for my failure once again. As always, I just want to get this over with.
"Any special requests, my lord?"
In the beginning, I was frivolous enough to say yes. I'd specify blondes or brunettes. Big breasts, or long legs, or tiny waists. I'd wine them and woo them and when they did not love me, another was easily found. The first time, the curse had seemed like a game.
Find me one you like, Grey, I'd said, laughing, as if finding women for his prince was a privilege.
Then I changed, and the monster tore through the castle, leaving a bloodbath.
When the season began again, I had no family left. No servants. Only six guardsmen, two of whom were badly injured.
By the third season, I had one.
Grey is still waiting for a response. I meet his eyes. "No, Commander. Anyone is fine." I sigh and begin leading the horse toward the stables, but then stop and turn. "Whose blood made the trail?"
Grey raises an arm and draws his sleeve back. A long knife wound still bleeds down into his hand, a slow trickle of crimson.
I'd order him to bind it, but the wound will be gone in an hour, when the sun is fully up.
So will the blood on my hands and the sweat on the horse's flanks. The cobblestones will be warm with early-fall sunlight, and my breath will no longer fog in the morning air.
The girl will be gone, and the season will begin again.
I'll be newly eighteen.
For the three hundred twenty-seventh time.CHAPTER 2
Washington, DC, is so cold it should be illegal.
I pull up the hood of my sweatshirt, but the material is practically threadbare, and it doesn't do much good. I hate being out here playing lookout, but my brother has the worse end of this job, so I try not to complain.
Somewhere down the street, a man shouts and a car horn blares. I bite back a shiver and suck more tightly into the shadows. I found an old tire iron near the curb earlier, and I twist my fingers against the rusted metal, but whoever it was seems far away.
A glance at the timer on Jake's phone tells me he has another thirteen minutes. Thirteen minutes, and he'll be done, and we can go buy a cup of coffee.
We don't really have money to spend, but Jake always needs time to unwind, and he says coffee helps. It ratchets me up so I can't sleep, which means I don't crash until four in the morning and then I miss school. I've missed enough days of my senior year that it probably doesn't matter anymore. I sure don't have any friends who'll miss me.
So Jake and I will sit in a corner booth of the all-night diner, and his hands will tremble on the mug for a few minutes. Then he'll tell me what he had to do. It's never good.
I had to threaten to break his arm. I twisted it up behind his back. I think I almost dislocated it. His kids were there. It was awful.
I had to punch him. Told him I was going to hit him until a tooth came loose. He found the money real quick.
This guy was a musician. I threatened to smash a finger.
I don't want to hear the ways he shakes them down for cash. My brother is tall and built like a linebacker, but he's always been gentle and soft-spoken and kind. When Mom first got sick, when Dad got involved with Lawrence and his men, Jake would look out for me. He'd let me sleep in his room or sneak me out of the house for ice cream. That was when Dad was around, when Dad was the one getting threatened by Lawrence's "bill collectors," the men who'd come to our door to reclaim the money Dad had borrowed.
Now Dad's gone. And Jake's playing "bill collector" just to keep them off our backs.
Guilt twists my insides. If it were just me, I wouldn't let him do it.
But it's not just me. It's Mom, too.
Jake thinks he could do more for Lawrence. Buy us more time. But that would mean actually doing the things he's only threatening to do. It would mean truly hurting people.
It would break him. I can already see how even this is changing him. Sometimes I wish he'd drink his coffee in silence.
I told him that once, and he got mad. "You think it's hard to listen? I have to do it." His voice was tight and hard and almost broke. "You're lucky, Harper. You're lucky you just have to hear about it."
Yeah. I feel super lucky.
But then I felt selfish, because he's right. I'm not quick, and I'm not strong. Playing lookout is the only way he'll let me help. So now, when he needs to talk about these near-atrocities, I keep my mouth shut. I can't fight, but I can listen.
I glance at the phone. Twelve minutes. If his time runs out, it means the job went bad, and I'm supposed to run. To get Mom out. To hide.
We've gotten down to three minutes before. Two minutes. But he always appears, breathing hard and sometimes speckled with blood.
I'm not worried yet.
Rust flakes under my fingertips as I twist the ice-cold tire iron in my hand. Sunrise isn't far off, but I'll probably be too frozen by then to even notice.
A light feminine laugh carries in the air nearby, and I peek from the doorway. Two people stand alone by the corner, just at the edge of the circle of light cast by the streetlamp. The girl's hair shines like a shampoo commercial, swinging as she staggers a little. The bars all closed at three a.m., but she clearly didn't stop. Her micro-mini and open denim jacket make my sweatshirt feel like a parka.
The man is more suitably dressed, in dark clothes, with a long coat. I'm trying to decide if this is a cop busting a hooker or a john picking up a date, when the guy turns his head. I duck back into the doorway.
Her laughter rings through the street again. Either he's hilarious or this girl is hammered.
The laugh cuts short with a gasp. Like someone yanked a plug.
I hold my breath. The silence is sudden and absolute.
I can't risk looking.
I can't risk not looking.
Jake would be so pissed. I have one job here. I imagine him yelling. Don't get involved, Harper! You're already vulnerable!
He's right, but cerebral palsy doesn't mean my curiosity is broken. I peek out around the edge of the doorway.
The blonde has collapsed in the man's arms like a marionette, her head flopped to the side. His arm is hooked under her knees, and he keeps glancing up and down the street.
Jake will lose his mind if I call the cops. It's not like what he's doing is legal. If the police come around, Jake is at risk. I'm at risk. Mom's at risk.
I keep staring at that waving blond hair, at the limp arm dragging the ground. He could be a trafficker. She could be dead — or close. I can't do nothing.
I slip out of my sneakers so my stupid left foot won't make a dragging noise against the pavement. I can move quickly when I want to, but quiet is tough to master. I rush forward and raise the bar.
He turns at the last second, which probably saves his life. The bar comes down across his shoulders instead of his head. He grunts and stumbles forward. The girl goes sprawling onto the pavement.
I raise the bar to hit him again, but the man retaliates faster than I'm ready for. He blocks my swing and drives an elbow into my chest, hooking my ankle with his own. I'm falling before I realize it. My body slams into the concrete.
He's suddenly right there, almost on top of me. I start swinging. I can't reach his head, but I catch him across the hip. Then his ribs.
He seizes my wrist, then smacks my arm down to the pavement. I squeal and twist away from him, but it feels like he's kneeling on my right thigh. His free arm pins my chest. It hurts. A lot.
"Release the weapon." He's got an accent, but I can't place it. And now that his face is on top of mine, I realize he's young, not much older than Jake.
I clench my fingers even tighter around the bar. My breath makes huge panicked clouds between us. I beat at him with my free hand, but I might as well be striking a statue. He tightens his hold on my wrist, until I genuinely think the bones are rubbing together.
A whimper escapes my throat, but I grit my teeth and hold on.
"Release it," he says again, his tone thickening with anger.
"Jake!" I scream, hoping enough time has passed that he might be heading back. The pavement stabs daggers of ice into my back. Every muscle hurts, but I keep fighting. "Jake! Someone help me!"
I try to claw at his eyes, but the man's grip tightens in response. His gaze meets mine and there's no hesitation there. My wrist is going to break.
A siren kicks up somewhere nearby, but it'll be too late. I try to claw at his face again, but I catch his neck instead. Blood blossoms under my nails, and his eyes turn murderous. The sky lightens fractionally behind him, turning pink with streaks of orange.
His free hand lifts and I don't know if he's going to hit me or strangle me or break my neck. It doesn't matter. This is it. My last sight will be a glorious sunrise.
I'm wrong. His hand never strikes.
Instead, the sky disappears altogether.CHAPTER 3
Sunlight gilds the fixtures in my sitting room, throwing shadows along the hand-sewn tapestries and the velvet chairs my parents once occupied. Sometimes, if I sit here long enough, I can imagine their presence. I can hear my father's brusque voice, full of admonishment and lectures. My mother's quiet disapproval.
I can remember my own arrogance.
I want to walk out of the castle and fling myself off a cliff.
That doesn't work. I've tried. More than once.
I always wake here, in this room, waiting in the sunlight. The fire always burns low, just as it is now, the flames crackling in a familiar pattern. The stone floor appears freshly swept, wine and goblets sitting ready on a side table. Grey's weapons hang on the opposite chair, waiting for his return.
Everything is always the same.
Except for the dead. They never come back.
The fire pops, a bit of kindling sliding to the base of the fireplace. Right on schedule. Grey will reappear soon.
I sigh. Practiced words wait on my tongue, though sometimes it takes the girls a while to awaken from the sleeping ether Grey gives them. They're always frightened at first, but I've learned how to ease their fears, to charm and coax them into trusting me.
Only to destroy that trust when autumn slides into winter. When they see me change.
The air flickers, and I straighten. As much as I hate the curse, the never-ending repetition of my life here, the girls are the one spot of change. Despite myself, I'm curious to see what motionless beauty will hang in Grey's arms today.
But when Grey appears, he's pinning a girl to the floor.
She's not a motionless beauty. She's scrawny and shoeless and digging her nails into the side of his neck.
Grey swears and knocks her hand away. Blood appears in lines across his throat.
I rise from the chair, nearly losing a moment to the sheer novelty of it all. "Commander! Release her."
He flings himself back and finds his feet. The girl scrambles away from him, clutching a rusted weapon of some sort. Her movement is labored and clumsy.
"What is this?" She gets a hand on the wall and staggers to her feet. "What did you do?"
Grey grabs his sword from the chair, pulling it free from the scabbard with a fierceness I haven't seen in ... in ages. "Have no worries, my lord. This may be the shortest season yet."
The girl raises the rusted bar as if that will provide any kind of defense against a trained swordsman. Dark curls spill out of the hood of her clothing, and her face is tired, drawn, and dusty. I wonder if Grey injured her, the way she keeps her weight off her left leg.
"Try it." She glances between him and me. "I know a good spot I haven't hit with this yet."
"I will." Grey lifts his weapon and steps forward. "I know a good spot I haven't hit with this yet."
"Enough." I've never seen Grey go after one of the girls, but when he shows no intention of stopping, I sharpen my tone. "That is an order, Commander."
He stops, but his sword remains in his hand and he doesn't take his eyes off the girl. "Do not think," he tells her, his voice fierce, "that this means I will allow you to attack me again."
"Don't worry," she snaps. "I'm sure I'll get another chance."
"She attacked you?" My eyebrows rise. "Grey. She is half your size."
"She makes up for it in temperament. She most assuredly was not my first choice."
"Where am I?" The girl's eyes keep flicking from me to him to the sword in his hand — and then to the doorway behind us. Her knuckles are white where they grip the bar. "What did you do?"
I glance at Grey and lower my voice. "Put up your sword. You're frightening her."
The Royal Guard is trained to obey without hesitation and Grey is no exception. He slides his weapon into its sheath, but strings the sword belt around his waist.
I cannot remember the last time he was fully armed on the first day of the season. Probably not since there were men to command and threats to deflect.
But removing the weapon has drained some of the tension from the room. I put out a hand and keep my voice gentle, the way I speak to skittish horses in the stables. "You are safe here. May I have your weapon?"
Her eyes slide to Grey, to where his hand remains on the hilt of his sword. "No way."
"You fear Grey? Easily solved." I look at him. "Commander. You are ordered to not harm this girl."
He takes a step back and folds his arms.
The girl watches this exchange and then she draws a long breath and takes a tentative step forward, the bar held in front of her.
At least she can be tamed as easily as the others. I extend my hand and give her an encouraging look.
She takes another step — but then her expression shifts, her eyes darken, and she swings.
Hard steel slams into my waist, just below my rib cage. Silver hell, it hurts. I double over and barely have time to react before she's swinging for my head.
Luckily, my training is nearly as thorough as Grey's. I duck and catch the bar before she makes contact.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Curse So Dark and Lonely"
Copyright © 2019 Brigid Kemmerer.
Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Harper is just trying to protect her brother. Her life is in turmoil with her dad owing the wrong people money, and her mom bedridden with cancer. She is supposed to be keeping watch in order to keep her brother safe, but she sees a man beating a woman and trying to drag her. Harper will not have it. She interceeds and ends up being transported in time to a cursed kingdom. Rhen is the pompous, arrogant prince of the kingdom who has given up on breaking the curse. He really cares nothing for it any longer. But there is something about Harper. She is fighting every step of the way. She will not put up with anything she doesn’t think is just. Could she be the one to finally break the curse. Of course, LIllith has more cards to play in this wicked game. Things will not go as planned because they never do.
Interesting and had a strong female lead and a bittersweet ending. I enjoyed it.
I really enjoyed the story. From way the relationships are form so realistic, and life struggles, each chatacter has to face, in the novel. The way how magic is involved, the actuin, love scenes, everything it was amazing i would rellay recommend to anyone who is a beauty and beast fan...
I am a sucker for retellings. And this one is did not disappoint! Kemmerer’s creative take on Beauty & the Beast had me intrigued from the start. The writing is superb, and I found myself craving more, (crosses fingers for a sequel) also I appreciate that the heroine has a disability, I feel like this is something people generally shy away from but it makes her more relatable. All around amazing retelling! It’s a must read for B&B fans!
What a fabulous novel. Let’s break it down here: if you like retellings (Beauty and the Beast especially), fast paced fantasy, a wonderful romance, and characters that have you fighting for them constantly, you’re going to love this book! It was an absolutely 5-star read for me, and it’s helped me to remember why I love to read YA fantasy books so much! Also, I need the next book RIGHT. NOW.
“As before, he’s beautiful and terrible. Part dragon, part horse, part something I can’t even name. I can’t stop staring at how fearsome his is. At how much damage he could cause. I have no idea how to break this curse. I have no idea how to save him.” I am going to be honest, although I love retellings, part of me was skeptical of yet another Beauty and the Beast retelling. It seems so overdone lately. But the hype over A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmer drew me in and I am so so very glad it did. This book was simply fantastic. I loved it time a zillion. I can’t wait for the next one, which there obviously must be. I can not think of one complaint about this story. I loved the fierce heroine lead, who has cerebral palsy, but doesn’t let it keep her back. I love the romance and the drama and the twists of the story. Just seriously read it. I don’t think any of you would regret it. I give this book 5 stars.
Oh wow. Just… wow. This is one of my favorite fairy tale retellings ever. And it’s a Beauty and the Beast one at that! Everything about this book was absolutely fantastic. I adored the characters. Harper was such a spitfire; she was emotional and vulnerable but also strong-willed and compassionate. Despite having cerebral palsy, she doesn’t shy away from physical challenges, and I loved that she often demanded to know how to wield a dagger or sword of bow. Rhen was another favorite of mine. He’s arrogant and prideful, but also deeply caring about his people. They both have strong personalities but they work very well together because at heart, they’re both loving and selfless people. Even though this is a retelling of a familiar fairy tale, everything about it was fresh and original enough that I wasn’t bored or able to predict the coming events. The relationship between Rhen and Harper was a delight to watch as they both pulled back the facade they were projecting and finally allowed each other to see the true Rhen and Harper. The political conflict and turmoil of this story was delicious, as Rhen tries to rally his threadbare kingdom against a potential invasion from a northern country. He does this with the help of Harper, who conjures up a story about being a princess from a faraway land, come to ally her kingdom with Rhen’s. Watching Harper come into herself and gain confidence, even though she’s making everything up on the fly, was a joy to watch. I was so happy for her when she realized she’s stronger than everyone in her old life believed. This book perfectly blended romance, friendship, magic, action, and conflict so seamlessly. I was engaged for the entire book (nearly 500 pages!), and found myself devouring it in two sittings. This book certainly exceeded all of my expectations and I am so, so happy I found it. I will eagerly be awaiting the release of the sequel.
I was expecting to enjoy this book. It's a Beauty and the Beast retelling and it's been getting some great buzz. I did not expect to love this book the way I did. The characters were complex and engaging. Somehow Kemmerer communicated complex beats, sometimes that if translated to stage or screen would be stillness, and kept the narrative action-focused. I would have loved a tad more world building, especially as the politics play such a heavy part, but this really won me over. And the shipping. Whelp. You'll see.
I have officially found my favorite Beauty and the Beast re-telling to date and it is A Curse So Dark and Lonely! This book has a little bit of everything all woven together in a fantastic take on the original tale. Harper, our Belle of the ball, lives in the modern world and is dealing with a lot of family issues when, out of the blue, she ends up in this fantasy land with a stoic guardsman (Grey) and distant prince (Rhen, the "Beast"). So, first off, I love that this is a mashing of worlds! I don't see a lot of that anymore and I liked that Harper held true to her modern self while also trying to fit into a realm entirely unlike her own. It added another element to the story, while also not falling into info dump territory. And it's not as if time just stops in the modern world while Harper is away. Her family is still in danger and she's stuck in a foreign land. The stakes are HIGH. Like life-or-death high. Right off the bat, I understand her motivations and can root for her. She was a flawed character in a good way. Between her internal conflicts while growing closer to Rhen and having to remember her family's situation in a world she couldn't reach, and the external conflicts of navigating the kingdom of Emberfall, she had a lot of decisions to make and they weren't always the right ones. Harper is stubborn, headstrong, and passionate about what she believes in. I also loved that she has cerebral palsy but it wasn't written as a means to define her. It was a part of her as much as anything else and it made her stronger. Now from the tale, we know that the Beauty needs to fall in love with the Beast to break the curse. In this version, though, the beast's identity is a mystery to Harper but she knows fairly early on that Rhen is cursed in some way, that she has to fall in love with him. I loved that it wasn't some big secret (at least not all of it) because the story shifted from a romance to a fantasy with a romance. It's a subtle shift but made a huge impact on the plot. The curse was very much at the forefront but the romance fell back in lieu of Harper and Rhen working together to go beyond the curse and accomplish something more in his kingdom. Speaking of Rhen, I. . . liked him. But I didn't love his character. He's very much a passive person at first. Harper encourages him to take charge and do something rather than let things happen but I wasn't swooning over him. I reserved that for Grey. The loyal guard. The trusted friend. The one willing to work with Harper as she was rather than expect her to instantly change herself because she gets kidnapped and taken away from her family. Although I knew who Harper would end up with because it's the nature of re-tellings (at least for the first book), I have hope that things change in the series because I SO ship Harper and Grey. A Curse So Dark and Lonely slowly builds the action and character relationships up to the point that I couldn't guess what would happen next. It was glorious! And I'm amazed I didn't even pick up on the big twist at the end, which makes it that much harder to wait for the sequel! This isn't a re-telling you want to miss out on. I highly recommend grabbing a copy so we can wait in agony for the sequel!
I really enjoyed this retelling. I’ve read 4 or 5 beauty and the beast retellings and this one is my favorite. Everything about it was so detailed and magical. I would say this is more of a high fantasy book than a romance. I mean clearly there is romance but it was on the back burner for the most part. It was all about the curse and saving the kingdom and I loved it! I mean I hope the next one has more romance because I personally can never get enough romance but I truly loved this book. I can’t believe I have to wait a year for the next one. And the cover is beautiful. It has a front and center place on my bookshelf
This book is everything a retelling should be- a unique and unpredictable twist on a classic story. I love Brigid Kemmerer. She's one of my auto-buy authors because she never lets me down. Even so, when I first saw this book, I was a little nervous. I don't love retellings, and I definitely am not a fan of Beauty and the Beast. The whole hostage romance, borderline abusive hero, damsel thing always bothered me. But Brigid took everything I hated about Beauty and the Beast and turned it on its head. Each time I read a scene and started to think "oh here we go with the [insert annoying YA/romance trope]" she did something unexpected and more importantly, she did it well! I absolutely loved this book and these characters, and I can't wait to see what comes next for them.
There's nothing I love more than a good portal fantasy. You just don't see many of them in YA. Which is just one of the reasons A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY captured my heart. It's a unique Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beauty is a hapless accidental kidnap victim, the Beast has more bite than bark, and the stakes are not only the heart of a cursed man but the livelihood of an entire kingdom. With Brigid's trademark sassy dialogue, hate-to-love romance, and evocative prose, it's an easy bestseller. The cake is a lie This isn't your sweet Disney B&B, or even something Grimm. It's so much darker. In Emberfall, the Beast, Prince Rhen, is trapped with only his loyal guard Grey in an endless time loop. He has played out the autumn of his 18th year hundreds of times, while around him the kingdom has moved on, crumbling under the neglect of a royal family they believe to have abandoned them. Foreign enemies press from without. From within, a brutal monster slaughters indiscriminately (spoiler alert: it's Rhen. You find this out right away). All that is magical and enchanting in the Disney version becomes perverted in Brigid's tale by isolation, death, and decay. Even the autonomous instruments and their constant music are a torment of unending repetition. And the "witch" who cursed everyone is very much active, popping in to inflict additional pain at her whims. Harper is no farmer's daughter. Her mother dies of cancer while her brother does scare work for a thug to pay off their missing father's debts. She ends up in Emberfall because she's kidnapped, and her first object is escape. So refreshing! Harper doesn't fall prey to the delight and distractions of this magical world. She wants to get home. She's active and take-charge. Her sassy ferocity shocks Rhen and Grey, forcing both of them to question who they are and how they've dealt with this curse. Companion cubes (or triangles?) The biggest strength of this book is in the relationships. Harper strikes a bargain with Rhen and Grey. She'll help, reluctantly, if they get her home. But as she gets to know them, she's surprised to find how much they buck her expectations. The spoiled, calculated prince is more lost and resigned than she is. The scary bodyguard has a playful side. And Rhen, who's POV we also get, realizes through Harper how much he's given up on himself. The interactions between the free are complex and fraught, creating a backbone for the larger world-level plot. And oh, the shenanigans! Harper finds herself caught pretending to be a princess. Rhen has to keep up the appearance that the royal family isn't dead. They cavort around Emberfall, hoping to break the curse but mostly just trying to help the people as much as they can before it's too late. With every plot point, Brigid invites new surprises and upends typical fantasy tropes. Her pacing is taut as a bowstring, and her cast of characters grows to include some favorites I can't wait to see more of in the sequel. The fantasy world isn't Patrick Rothfuss deep, but it's not meant to be; it has the more sweeping, surface lines of a fairy tale, enough to make you feel grounded without getting bogged down in details. The test is over. Come back. I recommend ACSDAL unreservedly to anyone who loves fantasy or simply great storytelling. Brigid balances whimsical humor with poignancy and seriousness to create a story that is fairy tale adventure that reads like
Loved every second of this book! When buzz about A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY started to circulate, I knew I needed to read this one ASAP. A Beauty and the Beast fantasy retelling? Yes please, sign me up! After reading the synopsis and seeing that the female protagonist has cerebral palsy, I knew this book was a must for me. As a person married to someone with CP I know that they can be vastly underestimated and overlooked. I LOVE, I mean looooove, how much strength and perseverance the author gave this character. A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY is told through alternating points of view. One through, Harper, a simple girl from the wrong side of the tracks, whose family is on the brink. Her mother is dying of cancer, her father is gone, and her brother is trying to pick up all the pieces and keep her safe. The second through, Rhen, a cursed prince of Emberfall who is stuck in a seemingly endless and hopeless loop of despair and destruction. The only way to break the curse is for someone to fall in love with him. It's been three hundred seasons of bringing girls from the "other side" (aka modern day America) to Ironrose castle with no success. But this time is different. Rhen has one last chance to change his future and the future of his kingdom. Although Harper and Rhen are the two narrative voices of this book, they are not the only important characters in this story. Grey, the princes sole remaining guard and Lilith, the enchantress of Emberfall both play large roles. Lilith with make you want to throat punch her and Grey will make you question your loyalties. Will the kingdom of Emberfall be saved? Can Harper learn to love the surly cursed prince? I can honestly say that I loved every second of this book, it will probably end up as one of my top 10 reads of 2019. I was hooked from the very beginning and I wasn't quite ready to let it go when I finished. And that ending... OMG!!! What a nice little twist the author added. It's going to be a long wait for the conclusion to the story. This was my first book by Brigid Kemmener and I thought her writing and storytelling were fantastic. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books. If you love YA fantasy, fairy-tale retellings, magical realism, broody and strong characters, then I cannot recommend this book enough. You won't regret it!
Content Warning: Abduction, Torture/Assault (by the antagonist), Death. "You alone can break this curse. You must find a woman to love you." Who doesn’t love a Beauty and the Beast retelling? Everyone, right? Normally, I do (except for A Court of Thorns and Roses). Re-imagining a tale as old as time should be something that breathes new life into it. A Curse So Dark And Lonely may have been a little dark and a little lonely, but not enough to pull me into its depths. Everything that was in this book has pretty much been done before. Nothing really sets it apart from anything else I’ve read. There was only one real surprise throughout the entire story. Up until about 80% through the book, I was bored as a gourd. I really don't have a lot to say about this book. The one main thing I liked most would be that the main character represented the Cerebral Palsy community. How well represented, I cannot say. I felt at times there were inconsistencies with depiction. I understand the basic effects that this may have on the human body, but I do not know these details intimately. I can only go off how much and when this factor was brought up and discussed throughout the plot--and it felt lopsided. At times, Harper’s disability was talked about in excess, but there were other times where it was nonexistent. In general, there was a lot of telling, and not showing with the characters, actions, and setting. One example--for whatever reason, I thought Harper was a male character at the beginning of the story. I’m not sure if it was me not paying enough attention, or the writing, or a combination of both. But every time I was reading from Harper’s perspective until she arrived in EmberFall, I didn’t recognize this fact. (It probably would have helped if I had read the synopsis better…) Unfortunately, I really didn’t like Harper, or any of the characters that much. While she was much more developed than the other characters, with having more of a backstory along with her brother. The two had been in trouble for a while, as their father left after their mother had been ailing with cancer. Despite this face, I felt especially Harper's interactions with other characters to be rather childish and it became quite annoying after nearly 500 pages of dialogue. When Harper referred to Grey, Rhen’s captain of the guard, as a “scary man,” I was like, please, STOP! On top of this, the main romance, which is supposed to be iconic, wasn’t, because of this very nature. I was glad, however, that the romance was kept at a PG level, with only some kissing. Character portrayal overall wasn’t very strong. The antagonist, Lilith, was awful. Supposedly being this mega-powerful witch of the age, she was petty and one-dimensional in nature. Her cruelty was without merit, and forced her into being a sadistic being. Rhen, the “beast” was less likable than Grey, his commander and personal guard. I liked how Grey respected his word, no matter what. If anything, his loyalty and sense of honor were good examples of a respectable character, even if he had made mistakes in the past. One thing which was a huge miss in this book was that there was basically no world building, whatsoever. I don’t know about you, but with a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I BETTER get to be acquainted with the Beast’s magnificent castle. The little that was divulged wasn’t executed well. The author only included what was necessary to the plot, rather than cater to genuine wonder.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a reimagining of the Beauty and the Beast tale featuring a dark curse placed upon a prince which forces him to relive his eighteenth year over and over again. The curse turns him into a vicious beast at the year's end while dooming him to repeat acts of violence and destruction until the curse is broken by true love. What sets A Curse So Dark and Lonely apart from other retellings is the deeper insight into the far-reaching effects the curse has not only the prince but his kingdom and its people as well. A Curse So Dark and Lonely builds a vivid picture of life beyond its castle walls. There's a world out there that feels real and tangible. Waring kingdoms are threatening while Emberfall's own townspeople are suffering the consequences of the curse with an absent king and crumbling kingdom. A story can only be told through its characters and Kemmerer writes her's with passionate, compelling, and unique voices. I felt that Rhen, Harper and Grey's characters were equally enjoyable and thought they each brought something special to the story. Rhen is the tortured, dark hero. The prince who is made to pay over-and-over again for a mistake he made. Kemmerer places a terrible curse upon him where it not only forces him to relive his eighteenth year over and over until he breaks the curse, but he changes into a horrible beast which differs each time. The sadness and regret are palpable as the terrible deeds pile up—literally. The question of how do you make someone fall in love with a beast is heartrendingly and thoughtfully explored. Harper steals the show as a vibrant and fierce heroine who doesn't let her cerebral palsy label her nor stop her from achieving what she sets her mind to. I liked the fact she is an American teen with real issues. Her mom is suffering from cancer and her brother is trying to keep their family together even if it means being on the wrong side of the law. She is captured by Rhen’s commander guard Grey from the streets Washington, DC and whisked away to a world enchanted and a prince cursed. Through Harper’s eyes, we see the beauty and horror of the Kingdom of Emberfall and the curse placed on it. The longer she stays in the enchanted kingdom and with its people, the harder it is for her to remain unsympathetic to their plight. The torn feelings she experiences over wanting to return to her family versus staying and helping to break the curse is easily felt. I fell completely over Grey’s character, maybe even more so than Prince Rhen. Grey is not only tasked with keeping the people of Emberfall safe from Rhen’s beastly transformations and rampages, but he is also the only human able to bring back girls from across the boundaries of the enchantment in order to break the curse which makes him so appealing in his vulnerability and stark loyalty. His relationship with Rhen and growing friendship with Harper are some of my favorite parts of the story. In the End A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer would be a great addition to any YA fantasy enthusiast’s library, especially for fans of Beauty and the Beast retellings. The unique look into the repercussions of the curse on the kingdom Emberfall and its people, along with our main characters make it a compelling read. I’m definitely excited for more from the author and hope for a possible companion novel featuring Grey.
I’m usually a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast retellings and I liked this unique take on the classic tale. A Curse So Dark and Lonely was an interesting mix between contemporary and fantasy and I enjoyed seeing how Kemmerer combined those two. I also loved how this book focused on so much more than the two main characters. Kemmerer explores what would actually happen to a kingdom if the Royal family suddenly disappeared. And then how they’d react to a sudden reappearance of one of the royals. I also liked Harper’s growth throughout the story and how relatable her struggles to adjust to this fantasy world were. I did sometimes feel like some of the aspects could have been developed and expanded on a bit more (namely Harper’s family and a few scenes toward the end). But overall, this one was an enjoyable read! A Curse So Dark and Lonely was a wonderfully unique take on one of my favorite classic fairytale and I’d recommend it if you liked retellings. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel! *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Synopsis: This book is told from two perspectives; Rhen and Harper. Rhen is the prince/king of Emberfall, which is being terrorized by a vicious beast. Who is the beast?...Rhen. Was he cursed by a powerful enchantress?...absolutely. Harper is a teen with cerebral palsy who, along with her brother, is struggling with her mother's illness and keeping their heads above water. Harper gets pulled into Rhen's world and this books steals my heart (yes that is an actual plot point). The good: *That cover is beautiful! *Beauty and the Beast retelling! *The romance did not overpower the entire story! *Bad-ass main character that constantly throws herself at danger and also exhibits immense sass. *The writing was exceptional. The pacing and tone were great, the flow of Kemmerer's writing was easy to follow. There was no point at which I was disinterested by the plot or the main characters. The so, so: *The ending was a bit anticlimactic, and felt rushed. *The plot was too predictable, at times. You'll like this is you liked: *The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer *A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas(but a more YA friendly version that is actually a beauty and the beast retelling) *Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik I can't wait for the sequel!