June 24, 2022

REVIEW A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers Book 1) by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers Book 1) 
by Brigid Kemmerer 
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Format: eBook (Personal Library) + Audiobook (Borrowed from Library)
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA 

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Beauty and the Beast retellings are a dime a dozen these days, so it’s very hard for a book to capture my attention and maintain it. It’s even harder to impress me, and come up with some unique and innovative when there are so many different versions floating around. Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the first book in The Cursebreaker series, is one retelling that both excited me and exceeded my expectations. If you’re a fan of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles or Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, you should definitely give this book a try! 

At its heart, this book (and series) is recognizable as something inspired by the original Beauty and the Beast fairytale, but it still felt original and unique. I loved Harper, Grey, and Rhen’s characters. I loved the world of Emberfall. The enchantress in this book, Lilith, felt especially unique in the way she interacted with Rhen (and how the curse came into being). Lilith is different in that she takes immense pleasure in taunting Rhen about all that’s happened in the past and what will happen if he fails in getting someone to fall in love with him yet again. My only complaint is that there were times many times when things felt predictable. I wanted to be surprised, and unfortunately, I didn’t get that in this book. On a slightly different note, this is not a light and happy Disney-esque fairytale. It’s on the darker side, and as such should not be read by anyone below the young adult audience level (anyone at that level or above should be fine). 

I bought this book because it was so popular on Instagram (and on sale), so I didn’t really read much of the blurb beforehand. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the heroine of the story, Harper, is affected by cerebral palsy. While the condition does create some obvious symptoms (she walks with a noticeable limp), she refuses to let it define her or limit her. The author added another layer of authenticity to her character by writing about her disability such that it's an intrinsic part of her character, not something to overcome or something “wrong” with her. There are also a lot of great discussions about how people treat those with disabilities that everyone should take a moment to read (I personally enjoyed them immensely). Given that I can count on one hand the number of fantasy books I’ve seen with disability representation, I hope to see it become more common in the future. 

All three of the main characters are lovable, but Grey was by far my favorite. Rhen definitely didn’t deserve the amount of loyalty Grey has shown him over the years; I wish he had shown more appreciation. One thing I was majorly confused about (and part of the reason why I was unable to give the book a full five stars) was the romance. There were times it seemed like the author was trying to make it into a love triangle (and not some one-sided thing like Gaston’s “affection” for Belle) - I never really bought into it. Overall, I was more connected to the overall storyline and the individual characters rather than any budding romance between them. With regards to the audiobook, each of the narrators (Davis Brooks, Kate Handford, and Matt Reeves) did a great job bringing their various point of view characters/narrators to life. I would definitely listen to anything they narrate in the future. 

In terms of worldbuilding, it was super cool how Ms. Kemmerer wove together our world (Harper is from DC) and the fantasy world of Emberfall. It was a treat to get to experience the world of Emberfall through Harper’s eyes. Everything seemed vividly imagined and well thought out; the scenes that were heavy on description never felt too “info-dumpy”. 

Overall, A Curse So Dark and Lonely was a very entertaining read. That cliffhanger was brutal - I’m very happy that the sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, is already out so I don’t have to wait to figure out what happens next. This is my first Brigid Kemmerer book, but it definitely won’t be my last! I would recommend this book to fans of high fantasy and fairytale retellings. I’m also curious to see how Ms. Kemmerer’s next book, Forging Silver into Stars, connects to the storyline of this series as it is supposed to be set in the same world.

About the Author

Brigid Kemmerer is the New York Times bestselling author of dark and alluring Young Adult novels like A Curse So Dark and Lonely, More Than We Can Tell, and Letters to the Lost (Bloomsbury), as well as paranormal YA stories like The Elemental Series and Thicker Than Water (Kensington). A full time writer, Brigid lives in the Baltimore area with her husband, her boys, her dog, and her cat. When she’s not writing or being a mommy, you can usually find her with her hands wrapped around a barbell.

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