A Curse So Dark and Lonely: A Librarian’s Perspective Review

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Hmm. I had heard a ton of great press about A Curse So Dark and Lonely long before I read it. I have librarian friends who have read and loved it. Curse was good, absolutely, but I have some issues with it, too. The ending was an interesting surprise, and I’m excited to see if my theory pans out in the sequel.

AUTHOR: Brigid Kemmerer
SERIES: The Cursebreaker Series, book 1
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury
PUBLICATION DATE: January 29, 2019
PAGES: 496
GENRE: fantasy, retelling
SETTING: parallel world of Emberfall, modern day
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS

SUMMARY OF A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

Retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Harper is serving as a lookout for her brother’s crimes when she sees a man attempting to kidnap a young woman. Harper rushes at the man to stop the kidnapping, and she ends up kidnapped herself instead. One minute, Harper is on a Washington, DC street. The next minute, she finds herself in a medieval kingdom, trapped inside a gorgeous castle and kept prisoner by a scary royal guard and an arrogant prince.

THE SHORT REVIEW

This was very good. I had a hard time putting it down. But the ending? Um…I’m not sure what to think about it to be honest.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

I read it compulsively! At 500 pages, this whopper of a book needed to grab my interest quickly and keep it. Goal achieved! Despite a few slightly slow parts, I was engrossed in the book and read it in just a couple of days.

I liked that Harper has cerebral palsy. It doesn’t really seem to slow her down much (is that realistic?), but I do like the inclusion of a perfectly-capable, quick-thinking, disabled protagonist as a love interest.

Think you’re reading Beauty and the Beast? Well…this is kind of that story. The bones are there, but the story has some twists that are not in the original. I liked this unique spin on a classic tale.

I’ve been thinking about the ending for days, and if my prediction is correct, then that was a humdinger of a twist on the original! I’m curious to see where Kemmerer takes this in the next book, and I absolutely plan to read it.

HARPER IS A MARY SUE

Harper is a bit of a Mary Sue. Her disability is a nice touch, but while it is a huge part of her character, it seems it should slow her down way more than it actually does. Or maybe not? I don’t know much about cerebral palsy, so maybe with surgery (which Harper mentioned she had), she can mostly walk normally? I truly don’t know.

What bothered me most about Harper is that she can charge into any room and make everyone fall in love with her. Hostile political audience? Send in Harper. Woman and children being threatened by bandits? Enter Harper. Girl being kidnapped by a strange man? Attack, Harper! Evil enchantress threatening your friend? Go, Harper! It just gets old.

RHEN DIDN’T REALLY DO ANYTHING THAT BAD IN THE PAST

It seems Rhen’s previous bad behavior isn’t nearly as bad as his father’s was. It’s like Rhen being turned into a beast is less about Rhen’s character and more about Lilith the Enchantress’s beef with the king. Meh. Rhen wasn’t perfect in the past, but it doesn’t sound like he was that bad, either. Kind of a cop-out.

I COULDN’T STAND JACOB

Could Harper’s brother Jacob be more annoying? I hated him from the very start. He’s hardly even in the book until the end, but I really didn’t like him. He sounds like a major alpha-male.

B-MOVIE BAD GUYS

The “bad guys” in Washington, DC (in the real world) are unconvincing. The whole story about Harper’s dad running off and leaving his dying wife and two teenage kids with mountains of debt to some dangerous local thug? I don’t know.

It seems that if their mom were dying of cancer, she would be in a hospital or have some sort of hospice care, whether or not she had insurance. I know medical care in the US is ridiculously expensive, but hospitals do have billing departments. If someone comes to a public hospital, clearly dying, they admit them and deal with the bill later. If you’re going to owe someone money, why not owe the hospital instead of dangerous criminals? They are surely not going to send armed goons after your teenagers to collect the bill. Yes, I know it may not always work out perfectly, but the whole we-owe-thugs-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars-to-pay-medical-bills plot just feels contrived to me. Harper’s family lives in Washington, DC, where there are plenty of very poor people. Public hospitals exist in DC, too.

DIVERSITY IN A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

Most characters default to white. One minor character may be mixed race, but I can’t remember if he was described that way or if I just pictured him as mixed African-American and white. A minor female character is described as having dark skin.

Two minor male characters are gay.

Harper’s family is in poverty and owes a large debt to some loan sharks. Dad ran off and has not been seen in a long time. Harper lives in a rundown apartment with her brother and dying mother.

LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW

Themes: royalty, fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast, loyalty, strength, disability, Cerebral Palsy, courage, love, magic, sorceresses, curses, cancer

Would adults like this book? YES. I know many adults who loved this book.

Would I buy this for my high school library? YES. An easy sell for fantasy romance readers.

Would I buy this for my middle school library? YES. Language and sexual content are mild.

TRIGGER WARNINGS

Language: mild; several characters use the words “silver hell” to curse.

Sexuality: mild; some references to philandering royals; “sleep with” is used a few times

Violence: mild-medium; there’s a battle, some descriptions are bloody, gun shots, kidnapping, a man verbally threatens to rape a 7-year old

Drugs/Alcohol: mild; a few minor references to alcohol

Other: thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide

Did you read A Curse So Dark and Lonely?

What did you think? Is Harper a Mary Sue?

 

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