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A Curse So Dark and Lonely: A Fantastic Beauty and the Beast Retelling

About A Curse So Dark and Lonely 

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.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely Review: Slight Spoilers!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely follows Harper and Rhen in this Beauty and the Beast retelling. The narrative switches back and forth from both of their perspectives with a lot of swooning romance and action along the way. Now, I’ve read many Beauty and the Beast stories. Some done well. Others not so much. I have to say, A Curse So Dark and Lonely had me almost from the first page. It’s just that entertaining.

First of all, Harper isn’t your typical Beauty from a fairy tale world. Instead, Harper comes from contemporary day where she struggles daily. Against her will, she’s pulled into the fairy tale like realm called Emberfall (think Once Upon A Time). On top of that, she also has cerebral palsy. (From what I can tell, Harper’s cerebral palsy is pretty accurate too. There’s even a website recommendation at the end of the book for further reading.)

Then there’s Rhen. He’s not your typical prince either. Rather, he’s a cursed Prince who slowly turns into a killer Beast every season (he’s slaughtered his entire family). His transformation from an arrogant Prince into a good man who tries to save his kingdom (while still fighting the emergence of the beast) is definitely interesting to read because we see his point of view. We feel his guilt at the horrible things he’s done as well as the building love he has for Harper.


Finally, there’s Grey, the only guard Rhen has left and my personal favorite character. He’s loyal to the crown and will do anything to stay by the Prince’s side and save the kingdom of Emberfall. Together, Rhen and Grey must break the curse by kidnapping girls every season in hope that one will fall in love with a killer beast and end the terrible curse. All this, while trying to prevent an invasion in their kingdom with no army (They’re all dead from the beast too.) Oh, and then there’s the evil enchantress who cursed Rhen. She really is a fearful creature to behold. Plus, she’s much more fascinating to read about than most of the enchantresses in other novels or movies I’ve seen.

If anyone else loves the imagery of a female Beauty flying a Dragon like Beast in battle, this book is for you!

Thankfully, Harper enters as Rhen’s last hope. While she hates both men at first for kidnapping her, Harper learns the truth about the terrible curse and soon takes control of saving Emberfall from ruin. She’s proactive and a likable heroine with a tough life who fights with compassion. Sometimes, she can be a little too “feisty” for feisty’s sake. Still, overall, Harper really shines by the end of the novel, taming a killer beast and all. If anyone else loves the imagery of a female Beauty flying a Dragon like Beast in battle, this book is for you!

The Chivalrous Romance

The romance here is also excellent. First of all, the writer knows what makes a good Beauty and the Beast story. She has all the right ingredients while still making the story fresh. For instance, the necessary compassion in a Beauty character is of the utmost importance in a good retelling. Here, Harper’s empathy definitely sees beyond a monster. At the same time, the tension is palpable between Harper and a Prince who could unknowingly kill her. I especially loved Harper’s call to go back home and temptation to stay in the real world because of the real danger posed to her mother and brother. This dilemma makes for good drama and characterization and also echoes back to the original literary fairy tale. 


What really drew me into A Curse so Dark and Lonely, however, is the fascinating Arthurian chivalrous romance influence, particularly present with Grey and the Lancelot like love triangle. He’s the protective knight and I absolutely adore him and his scenes. There’s even an epic moment when he carries Harper in battle that really caught hold of my heart. I can’t wait to see what Brigid Kemmerer has in store for his character in book 2. For now, my heart is torn between the redemptive Beast and the chivalrous knight. There’s a lingering question in her true feelings. Who does she love? Rhen, the Beast. Or, Grey, the chivalrous knight who is both loyal and her protector. How will Harper ever choose? 

Overall Thoughts

Full of action with fantastic battle scenes, A Curse So Dark and Lonely engages readers from start to finish. With a compelling romantic triangle in a non-annoying way, excellent characterization, and a super readable story, I highly recommend the novel to all fans of the genre. However, the book ends on a cliffhanger, so fair warning if you’re looking for a standalone book. But, as a reader of fantasy, twisty fairy tale retellings, and swoony chivalrous romance, I am ALL in for book 2. And I have to add: I am definitely Team Grey.

What are your thoughts on A Curse So Dark and Lonely? Sound off below…


Four corset rating

“Hello, Gorgeous.”


Five heart rating

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

I have loved none but you.”

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By on May 23rd, 2019

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely site and works as a YA Librarian.

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