Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
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 Lacy. 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.
Beauty and the Beast was my absolute favorite Disney movie growing up and so I immediately gravitated toward this highly-rated and praised retelling.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely surprised me with its originality and I was easily swept away into the land of Emberfall. This book is over 500 pages long and yet I didn't even feel it. Occasionally, I would glance down at the page number and be absolutely shocked that I had read 100 or 200 pages in what felt like no time at all and I couldn't wait to read more. I was clearly under Lilith's enchantment as well - that was the only way to explain it.
The contemporary aspect of the book was done so well and meshed with the magical land effortlessly. Full of beautifully detailed descriptions of both characters and settings, I visualized everything before me and that was part of the magic of the book. It was unique - with a heroine who had a disability but didn't let that control her life - and refreshing - with love that was expected but did not consume the story. In fact, for a Beauty and the Beast retelling, I was actually surprised at how little romance there was in this, but that's what made it great. We were initially led to believe that this story was mostly about a girl who had to fall in love with a prince in order to save his Kingdom, but it ended up being so much more than that. It was a lesson in selflessness and kindness and hope. We were taken on a journey through the struggles of the citizens of Emberfall and the outcome of the Prince's weakness. We're there with them as they realize what they must do and how to change for the better. And it is all believable and magical.
Let's talk about the characters - Harper, Rhen, and Grey. As soon as the story starts, we're thrown into action and it's Harper that immediately caught my attention for her first act of selflessness. I knew I would love her instantly. She's loyal yet defiant, which are her two best traits. She's unconventionally strong and brash yet unequivocally kind and brave. She's a strong character to begin with, but when she takes on the persona of Princess Harper of Disi, she's transformed into an even stronger being - a figure of hope for the people of Emberfall. I admired her for standing her ground throughout the book and for never wavering in her beliefs of what's right. She's the definition of a strong YA heroine and I loved her for it.
Rhen aka his royal highness Prince Rhen unfairly had his entire world thrown upside down by a curse and he just had to make the best of it. Ultimately, he had a good heart and just wanted the best for his people. He had his moments of weakness in the first half of the book but Harper made him a better person/Prince and I believe when he finally accepted his fate and was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, that's when his character finally lived up to its potential.
And finally, this may be an unpopular opinion but Commander Grey was the best character in this book. I was rooting for him all the way. So many tense moments between him and Harper, I was honestly surprised there wasn't more of a play on the love triangle. Maybe it was for the best but I could literally feel it brewing in the air and secretly hoped something would come of it. Grey was undeniably loyal to Rhen and Harper and I found myself looking forward to reading his scenes. I'm excited that the next book in this series will have his POV - I can't wait to get inside that unmistakably powerful mind of his.