“My father once said we are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose– just as a poor hand can win– but we must all play the cards fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”
Rhen is the Crown Prince forced to suffer a curse put upon him by the enchantress Lilith. Every season, his eighteenth year starts over from the beginning and he must get a girl to fall in love with him to end the cycle and save his kingdom. This is no easy task when he is powerless to stop the monster that prowls the land and takes lives without second thought.
In modern Washington, D.C. Harper’s family is in trouble. Her father is nowhere to be found, her mother is dying, and her brother is doing dirty work to keep the debtors at bay. While on lookout for her brother, she comes upon a sketchy scene and fearlessly inserts herself to save the woman involved. It’s then that she’s dragged kicking and screaming to the magical land of Emberfall by the Captain of the Royal Guard.
I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I’ve never read anything by Brigid Kemmerer before and the last time I read a YA retelling of The Beauty and the Beast (A Court of Thorns and Roses) I felt pretty lukewarm about it.
I have to tell you guys, I was pleasantly surprised by this story and its characters. This is a delightfully original take on the fairy tale it’s based on. The mashup of modern and fantasy settings was fun and interesting. I found this especially impressive because of how easy it would be to make it all sound so cheesy. Harper is a character conflicted by her involvement in both worlds. She’s needed in both places and she has to come to terms with her own heart in order to reconcile her loyalties.
Speaking of which, Harper makes a kick-ass Belle. One of the first things you’ll learn about her is that she has cerebral palsy, something I’ve never seen in a YA romance protagonist. So instantly, I was intrigued by her. Even more refreshing than that is the fact that she is in no way, shape, or form, defined by her disability. People will try to coddle her and tell her she’s broken and Harper tolerates approximately none of that sh*t. She is kind, brave, and true to herself and I think that’s really admirable. She’s the kind of Disney princess I’d want kids to look up to.
Rhen is another very likeable character. He’s a bit gruff on the outside, but I mean, what else would you expect from the beast of the story? He undergoes a lot of personal development throughout the story and you can tell he genuinely respects Harper.
Their romance (thankfully) never feels forced or rushed. It’s given the time and the space to bloom organically which is something that I feel needs to happen more in these kinds of stories. I found the fluffy scenes in this to be really sweet. I don’t think I rolled my eyes even once (not the case for ACOTAR).
The pacing was great. I was able to tear through this book super fast. There weren’t any sections that I felt dragged on for too long. On the contrary, I often found myself eager to sit down and read some more.
My only complaints are pretty minor. For one thing I thought the world building around Emberfall was pretty lackluster. And my other complaint is that, in general, it didn’t feel all that groundbreaking or special as a story. I never thought to myself, “Wow! I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time!”
But all in all, it was a good story with good characters (you know I’m a sucker for the captain of the guard character 100% of the time). In terms of retellings, I enjoyed it quite a bit more than ACOTAR, which is the only other Beauty and the Beast retelling I’ve read.
**Be warned that there’s a good deal of violence within these pages. It’s mostly descriptions of gore but there is one scene that comes to mind involving some non-consensual contact between characters. It’s fairly tame but if that’s something you’re sensitive to, you may want to give this book a pass.
Final Verdict: ★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Have you read A Curse so Dark and Lonely? What’s your favorite fairy tale retelling? Let’s talk about it!
Wishing you all a magical day.