A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Pages: 507

Series: Cursebreakers, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult; Fantasy; Romance; Retelling; Urban Fantasy; Fairy Tales

Publication date: January 20, 2019

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Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. 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 constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? 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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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.

Rhen, Chapter One

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This book has been on my radar for a while. I honestly have no excuses for not picking it up before now, as it’s got so much that I look for in books. I’m glad I stumbled across this title at my library and that it was available. If this book has told me anything, it’s that I’m going to have to continue on with this story quickly.

One of the things that this book did so right is the romance in it. Without getting into too much detail, this book contains a romance trope that can either make or break a story for me. Thankfully, the trope was handled beautifully and has left me wanting more.

On a less vague note, I cannot get enough of the characters in this story. This story is teeming with strong personalities, something that draws me in. Harper and Rhen clash heads near constantly throughout this story, but in the best way possible. It’s great to see two people getting to know each other while still holding strong to their own personal beliefs. Of course there’s some give in their interactions, but neither one constantly gives in to the other. And that’s the important part.

Aside from Harper and Rhen, the secondary characters in this story also have strong personalities. First we have Grey, Rhen’s loyal guard and companion. And he is so much more than this. Honestly, Grey might be my favourite character in this whole story. We also have the dastardly enchantress that got Rhen into this whole mess in the first place. She is absolutely deliciously cruel and twisted. We’ve also got Freya, a gentle soul who only wants what’s best for everyone and will mother you whether you realize you need it or not.

It was the character interactions that got me hooked in this story, for sure, but it’s the plot itself that got me to stay. If you have an endless amount of chances to set things right, how hard are you truly going to try? If you’ve given in to the despair surrounding you like a cloud? If the your last chance wants nothing to do with you?

This story is about fighting the odds and coming into your own. It’s about understanding your strengths and weaknesses, about learning how to play them to make yourself as strong as possible.

Harper might have been born with cerebral palsy, but she’s not going to let that define her. She’s stronger than her family gave her credit, she’s worth more than Rhen and Grey realized when they first met her. Her enemies aren’t going to walk all over her like they expect. And I love her for it.

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*Spoilers ahead*

I know the plot to Beauty and the Beast. I’ve read it a million times. I’ve watched thousands of hours of movie and TV show renditions of this story. I’ve read and heard about the backlash against the themes of this plot and the outcries of normalizing Stockholm syndrome.

None of them stop me from adoring the tale and all of its many renditions.

This one might be a contender for my favourite rendition of all time. I like the love triangle aspect of this story. I like the idea that the love interest was taken by mistake. I like that the conclusion of the story isn’t cut and dry, that it’s not just “the beautiful girl has saved the beast from himself”. Sure that might be part of the ending, but it’s not everything.

More than anything, I have to admit that I want Grey to win Harper’s heart. I love them together, it’s as simple as that. I love that he can be “Scary Grey” but still be incredibly gentle and understanding when he needs to be. I love that he’s willing to help Harper right from the beginning, even before he trusts her. Whether it’s something as simple as teaching her how to throw knives or more complex like trying to explain to her how Lilith will continue to torture Rhen and the best thing they can do is stay out of it. I love that Harper seems to come alive when having a conversation with Grey. How just playing a silly little card game can brighten her mood. I like that they seem to understand one another even though they haven’t know each other for too long.

All of that leads me to hope that Lilith is dead, that her death is what broke the curse and feed Rhen. I like Rhen, I just like Grey for Harper more.

It’s a cute touch at the end where Harper admits to not knowing if she truly loves Rhen but she’s willing to figure her feelings out with him. To give him a chance of fully claiming her heart. It acknowledges the fact that she has feelings for him, but she’s not sure how deep those feelings run.

I can only imagine how confused Harper has to be about her own feelings by the end of this book. She started out frightened and trapped, feeling weak and as if everything was out of her control. She managed to come into her own, for sure, but her introduction to this world wasn’t a smooth one. It wasn’t a happy introduction. It was filled with fear and despair. She made friends and grew to care for the kingdom and its people, but there’s so much more to it than that.

While some people are going to hate the ending of this story because of the cliffhanger at the end, I love it. It’s left me wanting to dive into the next story, to see what happens now.

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