A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer***
5 Stars ***** (and then some more)
Honestly I think I might create a new rating system to use on my blog because a lot of the time 5 stars just plainly aren’t enough.
Obviously Spoilers Ahead!!
I’ve loved Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary novels so when I found out that one of the main protagonists of this novel has cerebral palsy I knew I had to get this book.
As much as I’ve wanted books with proper representations of disability in them, I guess I was a little scared. I was nervous about reading about the things I live with all the time. I guess I was scared that the representations would be terrible or even worse, that they would be spot on – that they would be too good somehow. I think I was worried that would hurt more, that it would force me to face things that perhaps I had been hiding from.
Yes, that fear is still there –in a way – but I have also loved the representations I have read so far. **
From almost the first page I fell in love with Harper – even tweeting about a particular passage that perfectly sums up how I’ve felt for about my disability for so much of my life:
I grip the banister and rush down the steps. My left leg is clumsy and about to give way, but I mentally threaten to cut it off if it doesn’t get me out of here. It listens.
Of course, for me it’s been my right side that’s been affected and unlike Harper, I’ve never had to have surgery, thankfully. I did however try ballet when I was younger too and gave up after a while as well. But for me, this perfectly summed up how I used to (and honestly still do) treat my CP side. I knew then that I would adore this book purely on the representation of Harper and her cerebral palsy.
I loved Harper so much. She is as determined as I’ve always been described by my medical specialists. (They say determined, I say stubborn) So determined to prove to everyone she is just as capable as anyone; not that she’s “normal” really but that she can be anyone she wants to be and do anything she puts her mind to. Harper is who I wanted to be growing up; she represents so much of what I needed to hear and read when I was younger. I so wish I had this book when I was 14 or 15, or even younger. To have a representation of someone like me when I was that age would’ve been truly amazing.
Harper’s relationship with Jake is interesting because as much as they love each other, they hide so much from one another. I get the impression that Jake thinks he’s protecting her by hiding her from everything but in a way it’s like he doesn’t believe in her or trust that she is capable – something that Grey and Rhen do instinctively, even before learning the whole truth of her disability or injury as they originally believe.
When I found out it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast I kind of knew what to expect at the end. Although I did really like that Rhen only became the monster at the end of each season instead of the more common idea that the curse has made him a beast all the time. And while there was a happy ending, in that Harper and Rhen ended up together I really liked that it took more than Harper just admitting that she loved Rhen to break the curse.
Also I have actually read up on this but Beauty and the Beast is NOT an example of Stockholm Syndrome – even the guy (psychiatrist Frank Ochberg) who defined the term Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t think it is. Yes, Rhen doesn’t admit to the fact that Grey can travel back to DC and does kidnap Harper, but he does allow her to move about the castle freely, and leave to explore Emberfall when she chooses. He agrees to help her and understands why she leaves the castle and why and how he needs to start helping his people.
I also really loved Rhen, how much he struggled to even get Harper to just listen to him let alone care about him. How much he struggled to fight against the idea of the spoiled prince and how much he really cared about other people. Yes, it took Harper to really push him into action in Emberfall but he felt every death, and every pain of his people. This was shown so obviously in his nightly torture by Lilith.
Honestly, I was a little surprised that the twist at the end of this story wasn’t that Harper would fall in love with Grey instead but I absolutely loved that the twist was that Grey and Rhen are related and that Grey is part magesmith. It makes my excitement to read book two all the more powerful.
Honestly, I’m just excited for the next book in general – not just because I’m so excited for another book about Harper and how she deals with her CP. I love her and Rhen; I can’t wait to see how their relationship develops and how Grey and Rhen’s new relationship dynamic works.
Really I loved this book and not just because of Harper. I loved the way Kemmerer handles the Beauty and the Beast myth/fairy tale. I loved Harper and Rhen’s budding relationship. I love Grey and his loyalty.
OK so really, I think a lot of that review is a bit garbled and rambling. Point is I adored Harper, I loved Rhen and Grey and am so, so happy to a have found such an awesome representation of a character with Cerebral Palsy. And I’m so excited to read book two – which, happily, arrived this morning!
See you in the future! ♥
**I’ve wanted to write fantasy for so long but I really don’t actually write a lot of fantasy or read that much fantasy especially what might be considered high fantasy but I honestly loved this so much. Although it has reminded me that I should always, always check if a book is the first in a duology or trilogy and when the various novels are released so I’m not stuck waiting an entire year for the conclusion! Argh!