January 2020 #IndigoStaffPicks: A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Released in North America on January 29, 2019, A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer has everything you’d want in a retelling of a classic fairy tale. A Curse So Dark And Lonely is a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sarah J Maas.

Not only that, but A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is also the Indigo Teen Staff Pick of the Month for January 2020!

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review. 

Fall in love, break the curse. It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope. Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world. Break the curse, save the kingdom. A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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Dear Reader, I shall be honest with you here – despite the high praise that A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer has received in the year since its release, I was still hesitant to pick this one up, convinced I would inevitably let down (once again) by the genre that is retellings of a classic fairy tales. Yet, despite my apprehension, I found it within myself to being reading A Curse So Dark And Lonely – and I ended up simply adoring it. While remaining true to its origins, A Curse So Dark And Lonely does not feel like a story shackled by its roots – instead, the story feels refreshed and powerful, the characters are empowering and enticing, and the writing is both dark and whimsical all at once.

“Our relationship seems to tick forward like the hands of a clock, always changing in relation to each other.” – Brigid Kemmerer, A Curse So Dark And Lonely

A Curse So Dark And Lonely is told from the alternating perspectives of Prince Rhen (heir to the fantasy-kingdom of Emberfall, which exists in a world parallel to ours) and Harper (a teen with cerebral palsy from a struggling family living in modern-day Washington, DC). Almost immediately, Harper finds herself whisked away to Emberfall by Grey, Prince Rhen’s Guard Commander, in order to try to break the curse placed on Prince Rhen. Prince Rhen is exactly what he has been raised and trained to be – an arrogant royal with an over-inflated sense of entitlement, who does not like to be challenged or questioned. Despite the curse placed upon him, and the horrors it has wrought upon his life and his kingdom, he maintains this facade – only beginning to let his walls down when Harper all but takes a hammer to his shiny persona. Harper is fierce and determined, and unwilling to let anything – not her cerebral palsy, not her family’s debt, not her kidnapping – stand in her way. And despite what she may lack in her own life, she never hesitates to give to those in need around her, whether it be extra food, a helping hand, or her life. As these two characters collide, they begin to soften one another’s edges, and unravel not only each other’s secrets, but truths about themselves they may not have otherwise faced.

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As one might expect with a novel of this nature (i.e. a retelling of a classic fairy tale), A Curse So Dark And Lonely mostly follows the expected plot of its source-material, Beauty and the Beast, diverging only in regards to a few key points. Namely, that Rhen is not always in his Beast form, that Emberfall has not only a curse but an impending war to content with, and that Rhen and Harper spend a significant time outside of the castle grounds. Other divergences (such as Grey’s presence, or the presence of Harper’s mother in her life, rather than her father), are predominantly character and/or setting related, and minimally influence the story itself. This being said, the plot itself progresses in much of the same way as you would expect, meaning that the strength of this story comes not from its originality or unpredictable nature, but rather from the quality of Kemmerer’s storytelling. Kemmerer builds a stimulating world for the story to take place within, fascinating characters for the reader to engage with, and interlaces both with intriguing political and social topics, putting a fresh and engaging spin on an otherwise familiar story.

 “I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.” – Brigid Kemmerer, A Curse So Dark And Lonely

Overall, A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer surpassed expectations, presenting readers with a story that feels refreshed and powerful, characters who are empowering and enticing, and a story that doesn’t feel shackled by the confines of its origins.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

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