I have an obsession with fairy tale retellings, at least I feel like I do when I continuously end up grabbing these books and reading them in a crazed blur. The Beauty and the Beast is one of my absolute favorites with its retellings currently in the ya market, my number one favorite being A Court of Thorns and Roses!
To say that this is the familiar tale with a twist is a given, but this one still managed to give originality and surprising changes to a story we all know so well. While A Curse So Dark and Lonely doesn’t stray as far as Sarah J Maas did with hers, it seems to lend itself better than Disney at characterization. Our Beast, is given a level of inner turmoil that increases the tension, and the witch is given a greater role in the story as well, continuously popping back into the picture to drive the dagger in further with our main characters.
So, besides this being a retelling, what is it about?
A Curse So Dark and Lonely starts out in the rough city streets of D.C. with Harper as she and her brother are tasked with collecting money for Loan Sharks, Harper being the lookout until a stranger comes into view drugging a woman. Being a decent person, Harper goes at this man with a crowbar, trying to save a potential victim. This stranger though isn’t from this world, and ends up taking Harper along with him to his instead of the woman he had planned for. This is where the story already begins to stray from the earlier versions, Harper not being book smart primarily, but street smart, and thrown into a world she doesn’t understand.
This one also throws in another potential love interest, or at least it feels that way for the first part of the book. Oh boy, love triangles. For me, it felt like this was short lived, ending rather quickly, which I really won’t mourn. I’m not the biggest fan of love triangles.
The characters in this novel are amazingly well developed, Harper being this lovely mix of confidence and worry. She is brave, but she flounders, and when so many characters are written as if they are the best thing to ever grace your presence, Harper is a welcome change. Rhen and Commander Grey are also very well developed, both understandably worn out and frayed by the long years of the curse, not to mention the loss and bloodshed coupled with it. The two would likely not have known each other nearly as well without the curse, and that brings a dark undertone to their relationship, even while highlighting the obvious camaraderie and brother like friendship. It just feels like Kemmerer issued Disney a challenge and was that kid asking all the questions the adults have zero answers for. Like, how does the beast be an animal and a human at the same time? Solution, our beast isn’t always one, he just turns into one once a year for a period of time. The only person I think we’re missing is Gaston, but with the witch playing the villain more so in this version, I think she took over that role better than a throw in Gaston would.
This book was a great surprise from the moment I heard of it to the moment I flew through it and couldn’t put it down. I love fairy tales, and their retellings, and this book fit that bill and then some. So, what is the quick breakdown of the good and the bad?
- New / Modern and Old versions of Beauty and the Beast combined
- This version kind of surprised me with how well it brought an ancient world and a modern Washington D.C. into the same story, while still being realistic and reasonable with the how/why. Given the circumstances of the story and the characters I think this was a great choice for setting.
- Have I mentioned how quickly I read this?
- The book is fast paced, and with all our lives being pretty darn busy, this was something that made this so easy to read, and oh so enjoyable!
- More depth to the beast from the beginning and the beast is given its own moments when it takes over.
- Is it wrong that I like a good chapter that outlines how little control a character has over the beast within?
- This version looks into the effect a Prince being turned into a beast could have on his nation. I’m looking at you Disney, how did this never come up?? If our Vice President got turned into something monstrous and couldn’t leave his home, or act in the way that was needed to run a country, that wouldn’t go so well, so how has the beast in most of these stories get away with it? In these, he only comes off as an angry sulky individual who is just upset that he’ll remain frightening forever. I liked this change, and how it gave a wider scope to how much reach this problem could have. Seriously, no matter how bad someone is, if they are high up in the ranks of a country, I have a hard time believing no one will ever notice or care.
- The parts at the castle are great, every moment seeming well thought out, and intention, but once they go into the city it felt like some of the conversations with the people there weren’t as developed. Some of the backstories were “led” in a certain direction and took a note off of the seriousness for me so that we would have more named characters out there. I’m not saying they should have stayed in the castle, but I would have liked this part to have been given a little more attention.
- I’m a little surprised how well they did for so long at that castle with just two people occupying it, and how no one went into the castle grounds looking for loot. If it’s been going on for as long as it has, how has no one ever gone, oh hey, this beast thing only happens at x time, let me go check this castle out, scope out some bank? It feels like we are given all this backstory and reason that maybe a lot of the other versions go ‘he turns into a beast, but still has reason, he just isn’t very pretty?’, but at the same time it gives me more questions. Maybe I’m just looking to much into that? Maybe I’ve finally lost my mind??
All in all, I really enjoyed this book and the story it had to tell. I’m starting to think I need some more fairy tale retellings on my shelves, since it feels rare that I get to talk about them. What did you guys think of this book if you read it? Was it the great quick read I had? Let me know in the comments below!