A curse so dark and lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

cover image

A Curse So Dark and Lonely book 1. Bloomsbury, 2019. ISBN: 9781408884614.
(Age: 13+) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Good versus evil, Monster, Folklore, Cerebral palsy, Fairy tales retold. Kemmerer returns with a retelling of Beauty and the beast for a modern audience. Harper Lacy is sucked into the world of Emberfall after trying to rescue a girl on the streets of Washington. There she meets Prince Rhen, who is desperately trying to break the curse that an evil enchantress has placed on him; every autumn he turns into a monster killing everyone in sight, including his own family. The curse will only be broken if a girl falls in love with him.
There is action a plenty as our intrepid heroine shows Prince Rhen and his commander, Grey, what it means to be brave and daring, even when she is in danger and in an unknown land. Readers will love her feisty nature, her quick verbal come backs and her intelligence, as well as her ability to overcome adversity. They will also empathise with Rhen as he struggles to overcome his arrogance and begins to care for the people under his care. Grey too is a young man that readers will love for his loyalty. (Kemmerer has a deft hand with male characterisation, as she ably demonstrated in her best-selling series, Elementals). Minor characters are also fleshed out well in the second half of the book, and readers will look forward to the return of Harper's brother Jake and her guard Zo.
The setting of Emberfall feels real, with an enchanted castle, people struggling with poverty and a Queen from a foreign land who has begun an invasion. The story is narrated in two voices, that of Rhen and Harper, and Kemmerer's easy to read style makes this an engrossing read. The cliff-hanger at the end ensures that readers will pick up the next in the series.
This is a story that will appeal to readers who have enjoyed Marissa Meyer's stories. Those who like the fairy tale Beauty and the beast could go on to read Beauty by Robin McKinley, and Jane Yolen and Shannon Hale have written excellent books retelling fairy stories. Juliet Marillier's Sevenwaters series is another to recommend to readers waiting for the sequel to A curse so dark and lonely.
Pat Pledger