A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. We follow both Prince Rhen, the cursed prince of Emberfall, and Harper, a troubled teenager from Washington DC. When Harper tries to save a young girl from being attacked by a man in an alleyway one night, she is transported to the magical land of Emberfall, and into the life of Prince Rhen. Though Rhen begins to hope that Harper can break the curse, it turns out it will take more than just a broken curse to save his people.
Length: 504 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
I picked A Curse So Dark and Lonely up after seeing it a few times in YouTube reviews. I enjoyed the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast (Belle and books), so I was up for a retelling. It didn’t disappoint.
At the beginning, I wasn’t sure about it. It’s a slow burn. Though the set up is intriguing and it did take some unexpected turns. It follows the fairytale closely enough to be recognisable, but not so close that you know what’s going to happen.
I found Harper an engaging protagonist. She has cerebral palsy, which is mentioned a few times in the book. I don’t know much about the condition, so can’t speak to how good the representation is. It is refreshing to not have a “perfect” female lead though. Harper comes from a poor home, and a family with problems, which makes her relatable. She is also a normal teenage girl who is unsure of her feelings, and isn’t afraid to be herself. Even when that self gets her in trouble.
Rhen is a difficult character to judge. He’s obviously flawed, and he’s done some horrible things as ‘the creature’. The book attempts to separate the two, and this works to a degree. I think that considering the level of bad things he’s done, there wasn’t enough attention paid to remorse. He does seem to emotionally get away with a lot.
The relationship between the two did feel natural. It didn’t feel forced, and I could see the steps along the way and how they make sense for the individual characters.
The same goes for the plot. It made sense within that world. I didn’t notice anything obvious that didn’t make sense.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely was a four-star book for me, until about 100 pages off the end. There was something about the emotion in the story, and climax of it, that really gave it a five-star edge. It’s a low fantasy, and primarily a romance. So it’s not a story for those looking for “serious” world building or an intricately woven plot. It’s a YA fantasy about feelings, and life. And I think it does what it intended to do wonderfully.