Hello Humans! I’m going to preface this review with a disclaimer, I am writing this review in 2018, in November in fact. Part of the fun of this book reviewing lark is that you get to read things quite a way in advance, but that does mean you have to do a little bit of ‘time travel’ when getting reviews out. So, rather than leaving this review until the new year, I thought I’d write it while the book was still fresh in my mind. So, while A Curse so Dark and Lonely publishes in 2019, it does still count towards the year of ALL THE RETELLINGS because I read it in 2018. I read a lot of Beauty and the Beast retellings last year and this one was certainly interesting.
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 Lacy. 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.
I’m quite lucky in that each of the Beauty and the Beast retellings I have read has been quite different, all of them taking a different approach to this well-known story. Writing the story from the perspective of the Beast has been done before (The Beast’s Heart) but I had not yet read a book that was dual POV between the Beast and the ‘Belle’ character – in this case, called Harper – and I thought it was a really cool take on the story. The contrast between the two of them is played up all the more when you add in the fact that Harper is brought into the Beast’s world from modern-day America. I’m not always such a fan of ‘modern day meets fairytale’ stories because I think you can get bogged down in setting up the metaphysic between the two and other similar details. In this book, there is a bit of ‘it’s magic, don’t ask too many questions,’ but I think that worked to its favour. Harper is a gloriously practical character who, while she doesn’t accept the situation in which she finds herself, she does get on with things without holding things up.
I thought that the ‘curse’ scenario, the idea of a season repeating but the world still moving on outside the castle was truly inspired. In most Beauty and the Beast style stories (or any ‘curse’ stories really) the world seems to have forgotten the existence of the castle that has been cursed, it languours either in some magical realm or hidden away in the forest. In this book, the world is aware of the royal family, aware of the prince, and also aware that things are not going well for them. The added need to care for the people of the kingdom was a fascinating angle to explore, and it made this so much more than just a copycat Beauty and the Beast.
I can’t speak to the representation of Cerebral Palsy in this book from experience, I look forward to reading reviews from ownvoices reviewers and seeing what they think, but I did like the fact that it was there. Harper is aware of her own limitations, but she is also unwilling to let them hold her back from what she wants to achieve.
In case you couldn’t tell, I had a great time reading this book. It manages to take Beauty and the Beast, a hugely clichéd romance at this point, and turn it into something that had so much power to it, so much weight behind it, this is how you do a retelling. I would highly recommend it as the colder weather continues!
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Is this on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!