A Curse So Dark and Lonely
by Brigid Kemmerer
Review by Bronwyn Eley
A tale as old as time – Beauty and the Beast! There’s a reason many of us keep returning time and again to this fairy-tale and in A Curse so Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer puts her own incredible twist on this legendary story.
I’m going to start with Harper – our heroine – who doesn’t exactly fit the stereotype of the “beautiful book-worm” that we have come to associate with Beauty and the Beast. She comes from a broken family who have had to resort to crime to survive.
Harper suffers from cerebral palsy and Kemmerer isn’t afraid to throw Harper through the physical and emotional wringer throughout the course of the novel. The best thing about Harper is that she has spent her life being underestimated, so she’s developed a thick skin. She is constantly surprising our other characters Prince Rhen and Grey with her ballsy approach to the endless stream of confronting challenges thrown her way.
It’s these strengths that make Harper beautiful, passionate and unforgettable. And Prince Rhen seems to agree!
Rhen suffers from his own arrogance and shallowness. Having deeply offended a powerful sorceress, he has been cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year again and again until he can find a girl who will fall in love with him. Fall in love, break the curse.
Things are further complicated by the fact that Rhen is cursed to turn into a vicious beast at the end of the season, which has resulted in some disastrous consequences in the past. Rhen is stuck in a time loop and hasn’t physically aged in who-knows-how-long, but he has aged emotionally in his time. When we meet Rhen, he is a beaten down man ready to give up.
To make matters worse, the evil sorceress has decided that this will be Rhen’s last shot at breaking the curse. If he can’t make Harper fall in love with him – that’s it. He will die. And his kingdom will fall.
The final complication is that Harper isn’t from Rhen’s magical realm of Emberfall. She’s from our world – Washington D.C. specifically. I really love this part of the story! Kemmerer has warped my sense of what’s real and brought reality and fantasy together to create a beautiful and fascinating new world. But this adds a level of complication to the story because Harper has trouble processing her new surroundings and is desperate to get home to her crumbling family.
Each season, Rhen’s right-hand man Grey (who is also stuck in the curse) crosses over to our world and brings back a girl for Rhen to try his luck with. Pretty despicable, if you ask me! But there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Grey, Rhen and Harper form an unlikely alliance, despite a turbulent beginning, and together they take on the impossible task of saving Emberfall from it’s many opposing forces.
This is one Beauty and the Beast retelling you will want for your collection, trust me! The end leaves you (desperately) wanting more and I can’t wait to see what Brigid Kemmerer does next.
~ Bronwyn xo