Her radiant curse by Elizabeth Lim

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New York based Elizabeth Lim is a successful writer of fantasy stories. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. Her radiant curse follows her bestselling duology - Six crimson cranes.

In Her radiant curse we have an amalgam of fairytale, myth and fantasy. Fragments reminiscent of European tales such as The frog princeBeauty and the beast and Hansel and Gretel are mixed into richly depicted tropical and frozen Asian settings as the heroine Channi travels on her quest to save her sister. The story is told in first person through the feisty Channi's eyes. She is fed wisdom and advice (in italics) by the voices of her magical animal and beast companions throughout the story. 

The setting in Her radiant curse is at first natural - an Asian village in close proximity to tropical jungle. Channi develops an affinity with the magical creatures of the jungle and strength borne of toxic, magical blood. A failed sacrifice of her life as a child, strengthens her into an indomitable, relentless warrior who fights to protect her beautiful sister from the fate that awaits her on her seventeenth birthday - shades of the prick of a finger on a spinning wheel! As Channi was filled with the power of toxic blood, she was also cursed to wear the face of a snake and so the ying and the yang/ the beauty and the beast dichotomy of the two sisters is the wellspring of all that follows.  

Blessed with beauty, Vanna is beset with marriage proposals; Channi develops as her lifelong protector. Magical alliances are formed and broken, violent and monstrous battles are raged, the heavens are split, the seas are fractured, the land smokes as hordes of fantastical creatures attack. Channi pursues her quest to break the curse of the demon witch.

There is romance and there is high cinematic action. There is a spectacular climax and for this reader a disappointing-seemingly hasty and unlikely conclusion. Although the loyalty is unbreakable between the two sisters, forgiveness is not apparent elsewhere. There are weak flutters of sympathy and awareness of suffering but no mercy. The ability to truly love and forgive is limited to the sisterly bond. All other relationships with well developed characters are severed and a bland end follows. This reader is still trying to work this out. Is it that after such dramatic adventure and utter passionate love, life just fades into nothing much?

Recommended for lovers of fantasy, romance and coming of age stories.

Themes: Sisterhood, Beauty/ugliness, Loyalty, Retribution.

Wendy Jeffrey