How many of us would like to be eighteen again? And again? And again? And again? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening to Prince Rhen, the heir to the magical kingdom of Emberfall. But the spell that the enchantress placed upon him has its drawbacks, because Rhen is cursed to continuously repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year and then turn into a monstrous beast if he is unable to find true love during that season. It is a curse that has destroyed everything, but when a young American girl called Harper is unexpectedly sucked into his dimension, Rhen finally begins to feel hope.
Harper has had a tough upbringing and she’s got plenty of problems of her own, so she’s more than a match for what’s happening at Emberfall. Except it isn’t as simple as “fall in love, break the curse... break the curse, save the kingdom”. Dark forces are allied against the Prince and Emberfall, and even if Rhen and Harper can eventually find true love (what are you guessing?) this feisty update of the Beauty and the Beast legend still doesn’t guarantee a fairy tale ending.
What it does guarantee though, thanks to Brigid Kemmerer’s snappily readable no-nonsense prose, is a neat reboxing of one of childhood’s best-loved myths that doesn’t have anything new to add to the equation but did manage to keep us engaged for most of its 480+ pages. Each brief chapter is told from the point of view of either Rhen or Harper, and part of A Curse So Dark and Lonely’s charm is that both of those characters have such satisfyingly distinct voices and complicated enough back stories that our familiarity with the source material only rarely gets in the way.
Of course we always know what’s coming and maybe the transition between voices can sometimes feel a little off (which is more of a storytelling flaw than a problem with the characters) but there’s everything in here that the target XX chromosome audience will be looking for, including a sympathetic heroine (the fact that Harper has cerebral palsy is a nice touch), an arrogant brooding hero, a gallant master-at-arms / girl-procurer (nope, that isn’t sinister at all) watching from the sidelines, and plenty of romance and action, with a little bit of humour too. In fact, the only thing that really ground our gears was Rhen’s continuous insistence - especially during the first half of the book - that Harper is nothing like any of the hundreds of girls he’s tried to break the curse with before. In our experience, that’s hardly a chat-up line. Maybe we should have tried dating in the world of A Curse So Dark and Lonely.
A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY / AUTHOR: BRIGID KEMMERER / PUBLISHER: BLOOMSBURY / RELEASE DATE: 29TH JANUARY 2019