[Book Review] A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

5/5 Stars

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. 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 constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? 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.” – Goodreads

First Impressions

I loved this book from the instant I picked it up. I’m not going to lie, this book made itself known on my TBR because of all of the hype in the bookish community. However, I can totally see why the community is in love with it.

Don’t be daunted by its size. It’s a large book, totaling out to 477 pages. It goes by super quickly. I think it’s Kemmerer’s writing style, but this book is an easy read, despite its dark contents.

The cover is gorgeous, the description is intoxicating, and I loved that it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie and it’s my favorite fairy tale, so I was a little nervous about reading a retelling of it.

I’m glad that I did. I was twenty pages in when I looked over at my boyfriend, pried his attention away from his Switch, and said, “Dude… this book is going to kill me. It’s going to result in a reading hangover and I’ll hate life in the morning.”

I cannot describe how amazing this book is. But I will try.

Main Elements

Characters. This novel is definitely character-driven, which I’m fine with! Harper is a teenager with cerebral palsy, but she doesn’t let her leg get in her way. She’s a spitfire badass, who can literally do anything she puts her mind to.

Then, there’s Rhen, the crowned prince with the giant ego. I admit that I hated Rhen at first. I thought his character was going to fall flat, but I am delighted to say that I was wrong! Even though, you’re supposed to love Rhen at the end… I fell for Grey.

Grey is the Commander and he’s an amazing character. He takes his oath seriously, with poise and wit. He’s ruthless and terrifying, which I guess is a good thing for me. I loved his character above everyone else.

Setting. We see a lot of Emberfall in A Curse So Dark and Lonely. We tour the castle, venture out into neighboring cities, meet many people from these various places, and all of which were expertly laid out. I loved how Kemmerer played the setting to fit her plot, too. She used the modern world as a diving board, propelling us into Emberfall.

Plot. The plotting was well developed. I enjoyed watching the retelling play out because she did it right. She didn’t just add modern day elements to an old story; she changed everything and kept the theme the same.

Despite Beauty and the Beast being one of my favorite stories, I had issues with the Stockholm Syndrome part and the beast’s unwillingness to talk about the curse. Those things never really made sense to me. Kemmerer found a way to integrate both of these issues into the plot.

She addresses Stockholm’s through Harper’s revelations after Harper figures out what the curse is. She confronts Rhen about it and they have an open conversation about the curse and what it means. I love how she made the story seem more believable.

I also loved how she described Rhen in the beginning of the novel. (Long quote alert.)

“If he just had to find a woman to lust after him, he probably would have been free of this curse in a day. I can’t deny that he’s easy on the eyes. The high cheekbones, the dark blond hair that turns gold in the firelight, the brown eyes that reveal nothing. Muscle cords his arms from shoulder to wrist, and he carries himself with purpose. People are quick to kneel before him–but he’s also quick to expect it.

When he opens his mouth, though, he’s arrogant and calculated. There’s no shred of vulnerability or weakness. In fact, if there’s any weakness, it’s the obvious frustration that he can’t just wave a hand and order a woman to love him.”

See how his reasoning for not breaking the curse isn’t because of self loathing or self pity? It’s because he expects the curse to break because he’s a prince and I love that!

Reason for Rating

I gave A Curse So Dark and Lonely all five stars because the book played like a movie in your head. It was a quick read, despite its size, and the plot was unpredictable (in my opinion). The romance was slow-burn… very slow-burn.

The thing with a slow-burn romance, though, is that the ending needs to be powerful. Like a bang! I was almost going to give it 4 stars because I didn’t feel that the ending was powerful enough to pull off a slow-burn like that. However, I realize that there’s another book. I remain hopeful for the sequel to deliver that bang.

For Teachers

A Curse So Dark and Lonely should definitely be in your classroom library. It’s a great read for students that like fairy tales and romance, combined with a strong plot. There isn’t any profanity or adult scenes. The only thing worth mentioning is that there is a bit of gore here and there. Only about two scenes are descriptive with blood.

Grades: 7-12

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer was published January 29th, 2019 by Bloomsbury YA. Brigid Kemmerer has written many other books, so if you liked this one, head over to her beautiful website to check out more!


Hi, everyone! I have worked in the field of education since I was nineteen and have a passion for literature. I have five years of experience as a library media specialist (paraprofessional), 2 years as a substitute teacher, and I am currently a general education paraprofessional. I have a Bachelor's in Library Media and Science, which I intend to use to eventually become a youth services librarian. I'm a proud book nerd, writer, gamer, hiker, and baker.

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