Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"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."
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is a YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and is the first installment in the Cursebreakers series.
A Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for the YA fantasy and sci-fi category for 2019, this book seemed like it would be a winner because it took a familiar story and put a twist on it. Emphasis on the seemed, however, because I was kind of underwhelmed by this book.
Beauty and the Beast retellings, and fairy tale retellings in general, are not a once in a blue moon kind of thing. If you do a quick google search, you will find dozens of books that have already made their attempt at revitalizing the story. This is why when a new one comes out, one would hope that the author puts an interesting twist on it that no one has done before. And Kemmerer certainly does that.
Our main character, Harper, has cerebral palsy. Disability rep is something that is not commonly added to book, let alone fantasy books (based on what I have read so far in the genre), so this addition was a pleasant surprise. What bothered me, however, is that I felt like in order for Harper to show that having CP doesn't make her any less capable, she acts impulsively and gets herself into bad situations. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to books is when the main character is impulsive. This may not bother you, but for me it makes my reading enjoyment decrease significantly.
I also found that other characters stories suffered as well. Lilith, who is the villainess of the book, doesn't get as much background story as I would have liked. You know that she is the reason why Rhen is cursed, but it does not go into detail as to why she cursed him. Her backstory as to why she is the villainess of the story could have made for a very interesting plot point, but sadly it is absent from the book. It makes the plot less impactful when you don't know why the villain(ess) is the way that they are as they are what drives the plot in a way.
Other characters who I think could have also had more time would be Jake and Noah. They are absent for most of the book, so when they were present, I would have like to see more of them. I would also have liked to see more development when it comes to Rhen and Harper's relationship. It is a Beauty and the Beast retelling after all, and the romance is a crucial aspect. Sure this is only the first book in a series and we would presumably get to know these characters better in the next books, but I don't like having to read more books in order to fill the gap.
Overall, this was an okay book. It was enjoyable enough to read but the lack of characterization brought down my rating. I may or may not pick up the rest of the series, but for now I'll put it at the bottom of my TBR.