A YA loose re-telling of The Beauty and the Beast that captured my heart. I love a strong protagonist and Harper delivers in spades even though I am still unsure how I feel about Prince Rhen.
Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was 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 barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But 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.
Occasionally a book lands in your hands at the perfect moment. Perhaps I wouldn’t have fallen so deeply in love with this story if I hadn’t been sick and stuck in bed with ample time on my hands to consume it all in one day. Or, if I had been in a murderous mood and not a romantic one. It doesn’t really matter because I am having a hard time imagining doing anything less than loving on this book.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is billed as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast but other than a Prince cursed into transforming into a hideous creature, this story is nearly unrecognizably altered. For one, Prince Rhen looks human for the season and only transforms at the end. The whole lesson of Beauty and the Beast is to trap a women into loving your disgustingness through gifts and grand gestures until she professes her love and only then can you reveal that you are really a hot dude. Instead, Prince Rhen is a nice looking human man during the wooing only to violently transform and become a true Beast completely lacking in humanity or the ability to control himself.
The Beauty is also wonderfully changed in this story. While Rhen’s Captain of the Guard, Grey, is tasked with bringing a woman back from our world into Emberfall’s enchanted realm, he tries to bring back a beautiful lost soul that he drags out of a bar. Typical man. “I need a beautiful woman to be my queen, where should I look…a bar!” Harper intercedes on the unconscious girl’s behalf and is taken instead. Her physical beauty isn’t remarked upon. In fact, since she has cerebral palsy, most of the physical commentary (which is still scarce) is spent discussing her gait. Instead, it is her personality that is beautiful.
Let me say too that the evil witch that issues the curse is a real piece of work. Lilith has none of the good intentions of the Disney Beauty and the Beast and just seems to enjoy torturing Rhen and Grey all these years as an intense hobby. Even Harper seems unable to comprehend Lilith’s genuine bad-ness and her cavalier refusal to follow any predictive patterns. Lilith is bad like Voldemort is bad; without logic and seemingly endlessly.
I love reading books where characters are multifaceted and nuanced and I really love Harper. She is a devoted sister, a loving daughter, smart and often overlooked. She has cerebral palsy but that is just one aspect of herself that treats not as defining her but as part of her total identity. Here is the one interaction between Harper and Lilith that made me so happy.
“Do you not see my power?” (Lilith) takes a step closer. “What if I could end the torment of your broken body?”
“No,” says Rhen. He staggers forward. “Harper, what she offers will come at a cost.”
“My body is not broken.” I say.
And I appreciated that the author made a point of adding a note at the end of the book making it clear that while she tried to create a girl who was strong, resilient, and capable, CP affects everyone differently.
I will confess though that I like Rhen almost as well as I have liked the Beast in any Beauty and the Beast retelling. Which is to say, not at all. In every one of these stories you have a spoiled rotten Prince who has been cursed and now feels really super bad about it but is still acting like a spoiled rotten butt-head. Rhen isn’t terribly different but somehow the author built him up slowly but surely until I found myself impressed by his passion for his people. This author even manages to make me believe that together, perhaps, Harper will support Rhen’s desire to be a better person.
Meanwhile, Captain Grey. Hello. Captain Grey has all my votes and I would very much like this fictional character to come to life and teach me to throw some knives. My birthday is in March. Thank you.
This book ended in such as way that I took my agitated and sick self up out of bed and directly to the closest bookseller. I was too sick to logically think about purchasing a copy for my Kindle which is a bit embarrassing now but I am thrilled to have the physical copy so it all worked out. All in all, I loved this book!
Tell me, please!
What is your favorite re-telling?