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.
‣ POV: 1st person, Rhen and Harper
‣ Summary in Emojis: 🐲🎭🤴🗡️👸🏰
‣ Trigger and Content Warnings: violence, gore, self harm, suicide, ableist language, alcohol consumption, death of a loved one, terminal cancer, murder, physical assault, kidnapping
I have such a soft spot for fairy tale retellings, so I knew going in that I would enjoy this. And I did genuinely love it but it was not without flaws.
One of the things that I appreciated most about this book is just how open and honest all the characters are with one another. Grey and Rhen hold nothing back from Harper, giving her all the information she needs to proceed forward as she wishes. A lot of the story is based around ‘choices’ and I loved that the characters made those choices after gathering all the information they could.
I did struggle a bit with the romance at first. I confess I was actually shipping Grey and Harper to begin with, they had a lot of delicious tension and Harper lets Grey in first, trusts him to help her in areas she’s struggling with. From teaching her a card game to take her mind off things, to showing her how to throw knives I loved how organically their relationship grew and I was a bit put out when Rhen kept interfering.
Rhen is, by virtue of his curse and his guilt, full of self-pity and loathing. He tends to spend most of his pov chapters moping about and not doing much which sadly makes them a bit boring. He’s very princely, polite and a generally decent person but he is almost overshadowed by Harper’s bigger personality, and even Grey’s stoic, quiet humour grabs the attention more. He does develop though and his character arc is very satisfying. Reading how Harper, who is full of stubbornness and grit, manages to teach him how to just get on with things and how the two slowly develop trust in one another was wonderful. The changes she brings out in him were lovely and eventually they did make a very sweet pair.
I would be remiss to write a review for A Curse without mentioning the one aspect that made me want to read it in the first place – the brilliant cerebral palsy rep. I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy novel with it in and I loved how Kemmerer handled it, how Harper had limits but she didn’t let those stop her from achieving whatever she wanted to do. It’s never the focus of the story and Harper doesn’t let herself be defined by it, instead she is a determined, kind woman who has some of the best snark-filled lines.
So onto the main thing I didn’t like in this novel which was the constant repetition of the fact that Harper was not like other girls. It’s pretty much mentioned every chapter right from the start and I hate this trope. Harper tries to attack Grey after he kidnaps her–but none of the other hundreds of girls ever thought to do that…apparently. Or try to run away, or want nothing to do with Rhen. All three hundred other girls just sat around a fire and let Rhen woo them. It just seemed unlikely to me that Harper would be the first to physically strike out against her kidnappers and made me dislike Then more because of his comparing them in his mind.
Overall though this was delightfully fast-paced, fun and diverse fantasy. If you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings, especially Beauty and the Beast ones, I can highly recommend this one! I’ve already jumped right into the second book and I’m eagerly awaiting the third when it releases next month.