Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Series: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (#1)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Target Age Group: YA
*Review contains spoilers
“We are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless”
Plot and Setting
This takes in two worlds. Of course one world is “old timey.” I think it would be fair to say that it resembled the medieval time period. There isn’t any modern technology in this second world. The other world is modern day society/reality.
The book is split into two different point of views and as readers we get a glimpse of both our “beauty” and our “beast.” At first this was hard to get into but I didn’t find either viewpoint more superior than the other. I enjoyed reading both perspectives and thought each voice contributed to the overall arc of the plot and storyline.
Our main protagonist is living and struggling in Washington D.C. Our Belle is actually named Harper. Her father is dead and her mother is dying. She and her brother are surviving by working for a mob boss to whom they owe money to.
Rhys and Gray are the only surviving members of a kingdom from the alternative world. It is apparent from the very beginning that Rhys is under a curse because he turns into some type of monster every season. He doesn’t take the same form each time and he loses all sense of himself when the change overtakes him. In his monster form, Rhys killed his entire family and guard in the castle–with the exception of Grey. Grey has been loyal to him from the beginning. The change happens at the end of every season.The only way to break the curse is if a girl falls in love with Rhys before the change overcomes him.
Time moves incredibly slowly because of the curse. Outside the castle grounds, it moves more quickly–but not much. For every 100 years, the outside grounds seem to move forward only 1.5 years. I was confused at first but the timing is explained several times in the beginning and I quickly got a better grasp of the setting.
One night, Harper comes to the aid of a woman who appears to be falling victim to some sort of assault. The next thing she knows she’s in a room with two strange men; Rhys and Gray. This is where things start to get pretty interesting.
Every character that was in this book had a unique personality and all of them carried their own voice through out the story. There is no doubt that anyone reading this book will finish with a favorite. I think for me, it was Grey. Rhys and Harper’s romance is a slow burn and I loved it. I just wanted them end up together so badly. Grey’s loyalty to Rhys was sometimes annoying and hard to understand but it gets explored a bit more during his interactions with both Rhys and Harper.
Harper is tough. She has cerebral palsy but I don’t feel like it was a plot point in the story even though a lot of reviewers use that as a selling point. I think its great to show diversity in books, but I wish we lived in a world where showing diverse characters with different abilities was the norm so it didn’t have to be a selling point, know what I mean? I digress, though. Harper doesn’t let her CP slow her down and she even makes multiple attempts to escape and goes up against some pretty nasty men who aim to kill her. Yes, Rhys and Grey ultimately come her rescue but Harper does her own share of rescuing too. I think its a good balance. I am personally not opposed to the damsel in distress trope if its done right and I think this author did it very well because her being “rescued” doesn’t soften Harper at all. In the end, Harper rescues Rhys so it all balances out anyway.
Rhys is a sweetheart who is tormented by this curse. I love the way his feelings develop for Harper and I even love the monster he becomes that Harper ends up taming. He’s just so lovable. I like that Kemmerer doesn’t make him this terrible mean dude who is only focused on ridding himself of the curse. His mood is honestly pretty apathetic and he’s decided to stop trying to get rid of it and just focus on building his kingdom back up.
The “bad guy” in the story is the fairy, Lilith who cursed Rhys and his castle. She tortures Rhys by taunting him and reminding him that he has killed his entire kingdom/family. She literally just pops up out of nowhere and it gave me the creeps. The reason she cursed him (he slept with her but didn’t want anything more from her) seems a little flimsy but hey, if a fairy is pissed because a prince wanted to hit it and quit it, then I can roll with it. By the end of the book we assume that Lilith is dead but it is obvious that the new antagonist is going to be the nearby kingdom who was an imminent threat the entire story. Brigid knows how to write a good villain so I am interested to see how the next book writes a whole new antagonist with a different personality.
And then there is Grey. He is probably my favorite with his fierce loyalty and dry personality. I accidentally spoiled myself with who Grey truly is when I read the synopsis of the next book. But I didn’t know the details so I was still surprised and thought the ending was done very well. Grey just has a good soul but isn’t afraid to take shit from anyone, either. He is a killer but he is also a protector. I am so glad he wasn’t killed off!
Even the side characters were well done. Harper’s brother and his boyfriend become an important part of the story. Her brother is annoying but again, it brings more dimension to Harper’s character and story. Also kudos for the author to having some LGBTQ rep in her story. Again, it wasn’t a plot point that her brother is gay, its just a thing and then we move on. It made the inclusion of diversity more natural and not forced.
I didn’t want to put the book down. I was intrigued by the very first page. I knew I would love it. I was so sad when it was over and was put into a serious reading slump because I didn’t want to pick up anything else. I just wanted to continue living in the world that the author created. January 2020 feels like forever away. This book is my favorite read of 2019 so far. I know I will re-read it before the next book comes out and I honestly can’t wait to read it a second time. It is so good!
In every retelling, an author has creative freedom to put their own twist on the details of the story. I liked how Brigid executed these details and it made for an enthralling read. Even though as a reader, we anticipate a happy ending because of prior knowledge about the original story, Kemmerer still brings a sense of suspense, mystery, and excitement to this read. I really hope she doesn’t torture us too much in the next book with Grey betraying Rhys and Harper. I want them all to live happily ever after or at least kick some ass together instead of going against each other. but its not my story to write!