No wonder A Curse so Dark and Lonely has such good reviews. It is a very well written young adult novel and the first book of the series.
It told by the two main protagonists Harper and Rhen. Harper is a handicapped girl living in today’s USA to be more precise DC. One day she tries to save another girl and is abducted in her stead by Grey, Rhen’s Guard Commander, to a parallel world. There Rhen is the crown Prince of Emberfall and he has been cursed by the ever so beautiful sorceress Lilith. So at the end of every season he turns into a beast and kills everyone in his way, be it friend or foe, unless a lovely maiden falls in love with him and by that breaks the curse. This setup reminds one a lot about The Beaty and the Beast which the book is said to be a retelling of. To be honest the underlying idea is similar but for me a retelling is way closer to the original story and this book has such brilliant ideas that it deserves to be more than just a retelling.
I really liked the idea of the coexistent parallel worlds as it is a good explanation of how a modern day girl gets into a fairy tale world with sorceresses, princes, castles, horses and so on. This is really good as Harper is a tough modern girl who doesn’t bow down to the prince. She is no sissy and fights for what she wants. Her determination is strong enough to help her reach her goal and she doesn’t let her disability restrain her. Despite that she is also vulnerable and soft. Harper is a complex, multi-layered character I really liked. For me she is the perfect mix between being compassionate and sensitive on the one hand and being fierce and confident on the other hand.
Rhen is also a multi-layered charcter. He is so torn in his self. On the one hand he is the stuck-up Crown Prince who is used to people doing his bidding and on the other and he is the devasted young man who has given up and only doubts himself. Luckily he never gives in to self-pity and puts his people and his country over everything, even his own life. He develops a lot by interacting with Harper.
Some people criticise that those fairy tale males, despite them always being young, are always way too old for the young girls that fall in love with them. Brigid Kemmerer found a very nice way around that as only 5 years have passed outside the bewitched castle, even if inside many seasons have passed. Like this, Rhen, despite still being 18, would be around 23 at the time he meets Harper which creates a believable and not too massive age gap between the two protagonists.
In contrast to other books that are considered YA-fiction, this book really falls into this category and I’d have absolutely no problem to let my teenage kid read that book as it doesn’t contain any sex scenes.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a lovely respite from anything exhausting and quick and easy to read. I hope the series goes on this way. I’m a bit scared that it’ll turn around like another retelling of the Beauty and the Beast and will turn Rhen into the villain and make Harper fall for Grey. I really like Grey and in my opinion he is way more attractive than Rhen. Despite all that I really want Harper to really fall in love with Rhen and get a nice happy ending for everyone at some point.
I’ll soon figure it out though as I am currently reading the second volume in this series.