A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

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In a complex mixture of whimsy and darkness, A Curse So Dark And Lonely presents us with a Beauty and the Beast retelling that genuinely stands out. I read many retellings (like…so, so many) and I’ve developed a deep fondness for ones that both honor the original tale and bring something new to the table.

Also, this one delivered! It also helps that I’m a huge fan of the author, particularly her YA contemporaries like Letters To The Lost and More Than We Can Tell. So I opened this fantasy knowing I’d enjoy the style. The rest wholly lived up to expectations and took me on an adventure of beasts and blood and good magic.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
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The Book in 3 Sentences

Every season Prince Rhen is cursed to turn into a beast and destroy everything he loves and until the curse is broken, he gets to repeat this horror in a year that never ends but instead resets and happens again and again. However, when Harper tumbles into his world, he dares to hope she might fall in love with him and break the curse. Except, oh wait, she hates him, and she’s more interested in fixing his broken kingdom than going anywhere near the prince.

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What Makes this Different from Other Beauty and the Beast Re-tellings?

As I said, I crave retellings and search them out most vivaciously. I’m always looking for one that will stand apart from the rest and not fall into tired ruts that lack fresh imagination.

Also, this one? Oh, it showed us how a retelling should be done! It honored the original tale, giving us an enchanted castle and a prince cursed into a monster who needs a girl to fall in love with him and break the curse.

However, the monster had a different twist. Rhen takes a different horrible form every time he reboots. It could be a wolf, a beast, a dragon. He’s also stuck in a sort of Groundhog’s Day nightmare. He gets a season to break the curse as he slowly turns into a monster (he has to hide his scales or claws as it begins). However, after he fails, the season resets back to the beginning.

He’s faced hundreds of seasons and every time he wakes up at the end of his bloody murderous rampage – he’s eighteen and hopeless again. With zero luck in the falling in love department, he is not having a good time okay.

The Enchanted Castle

You can’t have a Beauty and the Beast retelling without paying homage to that enchanted castle! This one was a little different. Instead of talking teapots, we have this castle that’s also stuck in time. It’s flawless and cheerful, with fires crackling in the hearths, and fresh flowers in vases and kitchens stocked with pastries and cheeses and fresh, delicious food — and it all just appears. Every day, sweet music plays. Fresh tea looks on the sideboard.

Meanwhile, Rhen’s kingdom is falling apart due to the entire royal family and government being non-existent. People are hungry, and crime reigns free and neighboring countries are drawing their swords and planning to take this open land. Rhen’s so powerless to stop it, so the lush and gorgeous castle is torturing to him. His family is dead, his world is in ruins, and yet the castle mocks him by being perfect and creamy and delicious. The contrast of this deepened the story and showed another angle of how cruel and twisted Rhen’s curse was.

What about Stockholm Syndrome?

The original tale is pretty famous for its indications that the Beast and Belle’s relationship had problematic Stockholm Syndrome aspects. Also, that’s a reason I’m a little cautious of Beauty and the Beast retellings. I was keen to see how Kemmerer would handle this because I’ve found her romances in her other books to be exceptional in every way.

This pulled through! Harper is furious at being kidnapped from her realm and taken to Emberfell. However, Rhen was never aggressive or forceful about their relationship. He barely pursued it. He’s so worn down after being reset hundreds of times and having dreams of failed attempts at saving himself and his kingdom. He’s given up before Harper even arrives.

At night he’s tortured by a witch. In the day he faces all his horrible mistakes. He’s baffled by Grey and Harper’s easy friendship and genuinely has to ask how Grey does it. Grey’s response? Uhm, being nice? Harper and Rhen’s relationship ends up being a slow burn and tentative. They’re easy to root for.

Was My Favorite Character the Beast or the Beauty?

I can’t even choose! I loved Harper for her vivacious nature, for her intensity and inability to sit back and let the plot happen to her. She happened to the plot.

Harper is a woman of action — here to fight and pursue and do the right thing. She also has cerebral palsy and a limp, and I love how the story wove in her strength as well as her vulnerabilities. Harper doesn’t hate her disability, and she doesn’t view it as her weakness, and this is such an important message to send to teens out there who may be facing similar diagnoses.

However, what about our beast, Rhen? He’s such a complex character who hides his exhaustion and defeat behind arrogance. He’s aloof, but he does crave connection. His friendship with his one remaining bodyguard, Grey, was the highlight of the story. I swear Grey stole the whole show by being this steadfast and unmoveable and caring guard, who so easily pledged to die for Harper just as he would for Rhen.

Is this the Story for You?

I’m just going to sit here and loudly recommend it to anyone who appears in front of me, all right? It was amazing. The writing was vivid and the world lush, and it perfectly meshed darkness worthy of real fairy tales in with the hope of a kingdom looking to a misfit girl to rescue them. It’s about loneliness, and it’s about faith, and it’s how our demons don’t have to be fought alone.

About the Author

CG Drews is a YA book blogger with the goal to read every book in existence. She ’s aiming for immortality for this. When not reading, she writes novels, at paperfury.com.

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