Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely
By Brigid Kemmerer
Published January 29, 2019 by Bloomsbury YA

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that does some interesting things with the story, veering just enough from the original to keep things interesting.

Harper’s life is rough. Her father ran off, leaving them in terrible debt, her mother is dying, and her brother has been forced into criminal behavior by the people his father owes money to. She’s constantly underestimated by her family because she has cerebral a cursepalsy. One night, she intervenes when she sees a woman being grabbed on the street, and she’s transported to a magical kingdom.

Prince Rhen is the heir of a dying kingdom named Emberfall. Thanks to a vengeful sorceress, both he and his country are cursed. Each season, he a chance to save himself and the kingdom by finding a young woman to fall in love with him. If he fails, he turns into a wild beast that slaughters his people indiscriminately. The only remaining royal guard, Grey, goes into Harper’s world to find women for the prince.

I love fairytale retellings, but they have to bring something new to the tale to really impress me. A Curse So Dark and Lonely is an inventive version of the story. I liked the combination of a modern heroine who comes from our world being sucked into a high fantasy world. It’s a clever way to modernize the tale while keeping the fairytale elements.

Harper is a tough version of Beauty. She’s had a a less than ideal life, and she doesn’t want to be defined by her disability. At first, she reacts angrily to her captivity and tried to escape, but as she sees Emberfall and the devastation that’s been wrought in the kingdom, she begins to make an uneasy alliance with the prince.

Rhen at first seems less scary than the traditional beast because he’s not in beast form (he’s a handsome prince, of course). But he lives with the guilt of all the people he’s killed, and he barely has the strength left to face another season of trying to save Emberfall. The arrival of Harper spurs him into action.

I loved the connection that develops between Harper and Rhen, and also the connection she develops with Grey. Harper really grows as a character, and she has a chance to shine as she works with Rhen to fight the curse and save the kingdom.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a lovely retelling, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys retellings or YA fantasy.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.

 

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Review: Uncharted

Uncharted
By Erin Cashman
Published September 4. 2018 by Page Street Kids

Uncharted was a fun, quick YA read. It skews a bit toward the younger side of YA.

Annabeth is a young woman with a lot of baggage. She suffers from depression related to her intense grief over her mother’s death. She blames herself, and she’s still in great pain. She and her father attend the funeral of some old friends of her parents, and she reconnects with Griffin, her former childhood playmate and the son of the dead couple. Then her father disappears, and Annabeth searches desperately her him, while fighting her growing attraction to Griffin and wondering if she can trust any of her father’s friends, all of whom seem to be keeping things from her.uncharted

Annabeth’s parents were part of a group of explorers who went searching for unusual things and lost places. Annabeth is convinced that their explorations have something to do with her father’s disappearance, but no one will give her any information. She resorts to some not particularly smart moves to try to gain information, but her behavior feels true to her age and situation, even if I found it occasionally frustrating. I like that the author explored Annabeth’s ongoing depression. Because she was once hospitalized and she’s still under the care of a psychiatrist, she worries that the police won’t take her seriously.

I was intrigued by the mysteries in the book. The adults are explorers, and the idea that they may have stumbled upon a hidden island is fascinating. I’m interested to see this explored more in the next book.

I think the cover design of this book is a bit odd. The photo of a girl standing at the end of pier feels much more appropriate for a contemporary YA. There’s a map design superimposed over the cover image, but it’s subtle and not particularly noticeable at first glance.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.

Review: The Dreamers

The Dreamers
By Karen Thompson Walker
Published January 15, 2019 by Random House

I picked up this book in the early evening, and next thing I knew, I was up way past my bedtime, because it’s a really engrossing read and I couldn’t put it down.

In a California college town, a student goes to sleep and doesn’t wake up. It seems to be a medical mystery, but then other students and residents of the town begin to fall asleep and it’s clear that an epidemic is happening. The patients appear to be comatose, but the dreamersshow highly active dream levels.

The Dreamers is a gripping book that reminded me a little of Station Eleven, in that it’s a look at how multiple characters deal with an epidemic. But this epidemic is on a smaller scale. It’s devastating to the town of Santa Lora, but the town is quickly sealed off from the rest of the country, to keep the illness from spreading. We see how the epidemic and the accompanying panic affect different people: a college freshman who was foundering at school but finds a purpose in the epidemic, a young couple with a newborn baby trying desperately to protect her, a psychiatrist brought in to consult on the epidemic who is trapped in the town away from her young child, a professor mourning the loss of his partner to Alzheimer’s, and two young sisters, the children of a paranoid survivalist who has succumbed to the sickness.

The omniscient narration moves among these characters (and a few others we meet only briefly), and we see how they deal with the epidemic. I found all of the characters interesting, but I was most interested in the couple with the baby. As the parent of a young child, I often wonder how I would handle a natural disaster/the end of the world/a terrorist attack, so I felt a connection to their struggles.

This is not a book for readers who like things tied up in neat packages. The epidemic is never described in specific, scientific terms. The nature of the dreams is explored, but you’re never quite sure what’s real or what the dreams mean. It’s a beautifully written look at how people cope with the unthinkable. I give it five stars.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.

 

Review: The Gilded Wolves

The Gilded Wolves
By Roshani Chokshi
Published January 15, 2019 by Wednesday Books

The Gilded Wolves is an exciting historical fantasy. Set in Paris in 1889, it’s got an interesting blend of magic and science.

Severin Montagnet-Alarie runs a hotel and hunts for treasures. He should be the head of Gilded Wolvesa powerful magical family, but he’s been cheated out of his inheritance. He has a plan to get his house back, and he works with his foster brother Tristan, who is a plant specialist; Laila, a dancer/pastry chef; Zofia, a scientist; and Enrique, a historian, on a major heist plan. Things don’t go exactly as planned, and Severin and his colleagues end up having to work with the head of another house, Hypnos.

I tend to enjoy books about rag-tag bunches of people on a quest, so this one was right up my alley. I loved the interactions between all of the characters. It’s also a very diverse group. Severin, Hypnos, and Enrique are biracial, and Laila is Indian. There is also gay and bisexual representation, and one of the characters seems to be autistic. The Parisian setting was really well done, and the opulence of the time really comes out the writing.

Where the book didn’t work quite as well for me was the magical system. There’s a lot of information thrown at the reader, and I’m not sure I fully got the concept of the Order of Babel. There are a few info dumps and some math, at which point my eyes started to glaze over. It didn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the book, but there were times where I felt a bit confused and I probably needed to go back and reread some of the earlier chapters, but who has time for that.

Overall, The Gilded Wolves was very entertaining, and I think it will appeal to fans of Six of Crows.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.