“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light” (246).
Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a YA fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast that takes elements from the classic fairy tale we know and love and puts a modern spin on it.
In the kingdom of Emberfall, Prince Rhen must repeat the fall season of his eighteenth year until he can find a girl to fall for him. When he fails, he turns into a beast, kills everyone around him, and starts back at the beginning of the season to try again. This has been going on for 327 seasons, and the prince is running out of time. If he can’t find someone to love him by the end of this season, then he’ll become a beast and remain that way forever.
In the words of Renee Zellweger, this book “had me at hello”—or in this case—the first line: “There is blood under my fingernails. I wonder how many of my people I’ve killed this time” (1). This story hooked me from the beginning, and I devoured the first 200 pages in one sitting. Every time I thought I was going to stop after a certain chapter, the ending took a dramatic turn, and I had to keep going to find out what would happen next.
Even though this is a retelling of a familiar fairy tale, Kemmerer has infused enough originality into the plot, the setting, and the characters to make A Curse So Dark and Lonely stand on its own. Her Beauty/Belle (Harper) has cerebral palsy and lives in modern-day Washington, DC, and her Beast (Rhen) is a prince who will do anything to break the curse so that he’ll no longer hurt the people he cares about.
Kemmerer uses first person point of view and dual perspectives to give insight into what Rhen and Harper think of each other as their relationship develops. I love this as a reader as I feel like I’m another character in the story who knows everyone’s secrets.
There’s also the guard commander, Grey, who is easily a favorite. His character is one of those “silent, but deadly” types. He’s literally a living weapon—you just say his name and BAM! Someone gets a knife in the gut.
I had such a blast reading this novel! The relationships between each of the characters was beautifully done, and I adored the world this author created.
That being said, A Curse So Dark and Lonely does have its flaws. In particular, the writing in certain areas, and the last 100 pages.
I’ve never read Brigid Kemmerer’s work before, so I don’t know if this occurs in her other books, but she tends to use onomatopoeia for weapons, but the words are so odd, it comes off a little jarring:
“The wind whistles, and I hear a swip. A fletched arrow appears in the man’s chest” (61).
“A thwick snaps right beside my head, and the hand at my neck drops away” (266)
“Snick, snick, snick, his throwing knives snap free of his hand” (432).
The first one is the sound of an arrow, and the other two are knives as they’re moving through the air. I understand what the author was trying to achieve, but it just didn’t work for me. It took me out of the story as I tried to figure out how to make the sounds (with swip you almost have to whistle to get it), which is never a good thing.
There were also several unnecessary dialogue tags, like: tell, agree, add, sputters, hiss, echoes, press on, booms, offers, and announce…to name a few. I don’t know why this has become a thing in YA, but I really hope this is just a phase. It’s much better to show how the dialogue is said through a character’s actions than to tell the reader how the dialogue is said.
And then there’s the last 100 pages.
The story was so good up until this point. Everything had built up nicely. I was invested in the characters and what was going on…but then the climax happened…and suddenly…the story turned into a race to the ending.
The pacing was all over the place, all of Harper and Rhen’s problems were conveniently solved in a nice little bow, and the story ended like that *snaps fingers.*
In fact, the ending is so abrupt, I didn’t even realize it was over. I saw EPILOGUE on the next page, and I was so confused. I had to double back and reread the last page.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a great Beauty and the Beast retelling. Probably one of the best I’ve read. I was so ready to ignore the unnecessary dialogue tags and weird onomatopoeia to give this book a five star rating because I was loving the story so much, but the last 100 pages—ugh! So disappointing and rushed beyond belief.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a wonderful fairy tale retelling that has enough originality to stand on it’s own, and the characters are well developed and likable. The writing is pretty good with some oddities here and there, and I devoured the first 3/4 of the book. I just wish I could say the same for the last 1/4.
lip biting: 2
What do you think? Did you love it? Hate it? Let me know!