“A Curse So Dark and Lonely,” by Brigid Kemmerer, is a beautifully captivating retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” with many similarities to the original story, but more gloom than the Disney version.
The story takes place in a world parallel to our own, full of vivid people and towns, with a terrifying monster and an even more terrifying enchantress.
Rhen, the Crown Prince of Emberfall, is burdened with a dark curse, doomed to repeat his 18th year. He changes into a beast every three months and is unable to stop himself from shredding apart his own people.
The only way to end the curse is to find a person to love him. He spends three months as a normal human; then he changes into a beast, though the book never specifies how long he remains a beast. The bleak kicker is that this season is his last to break the curse, and if he is unable to do so he’ll spend the rest of his life as a beast, enslaved to the enchantress who cursed him.
Harper lives in Washington, D.C. with her brother, Jake. The siblings struggle to keep their mother alive, diagnosed with cancer she’s given only a few months to live. Since she has been a high-functioning victim of cerebral palsy throughout her life, she can’t work to support her family.
To help, Jake resorts to illegal means to procure the necessary money to cover their medical bills. One night, as Harper and Jake are running a job, Harper is zapped into the mysterious world of Emberfall. She acts like no other girl before her; she does not swoon over the handsome prince, or drool over expensive jewelry, instead she wants nothing more than to return to her mother’s side to keep her alive and help her brother escape his debts. As she becomes attached to this new world and the people in it, Harper must reevaluate where she feels at home, and who her true family really is.
Together, Rhen and Harper must find a way to save Rhen’s kingdom before his time runs out and he’s lost to the beast forever. This creates an interesting dynamic between the two, and seeing their love bloom is so sweet.
I only wish that Kemmerer talked about the world a little more, but maybe that will be cover in the next book.
Overall, I loved the plot and the ending is amazing! I loved the characters, but I really hope we get to dig deeper into their hearts in the future. I recommend “A Curse So Dark and Lonely” to fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard, or to anyone who loves a good fantasy.