Earlier this year, before the idea of being stuck in the house had become the normal, Book Twitter took to their phones and laptops to gift complete strangers things from their wishlists. Not only was it wonderful to be a part of – both sending and receiving – but it also led to me becoming closer to several people I only knew vaguely before hand, who have now become good friends. One who I now consider to be a close friend sent me A Curse So Dark and Lonely because, according to her, I just HAD to read it. Lucky I love her, as it turns out she was right.
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is told from two perspectives; Prince Rhen, who turns 18 all over again at the beginning of the book, and Harper, who is 16, and accidentally finds herself sucked into a world she didn’t even know existed. This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is one that not just brings things into the modern day, but also brings a new light to both characters, with the addition of a middle character for them to both bounce off of. Grey, this buffer character, means that there is a lovely extra dynamic added in, and also helps with the dynamic between Rhen and Harper.
As a disabled person, what I really loved was the representation in Harper having Cerebal Palsy. Her attitude towards the way others handled her limited movement was a low tolerance for rubbish, and simply told them to get over it when they stared, to adjust when it came to training, and to be patient when it came to her slowly growing trust in Rhen. She becomes aware that being thrust into the world of Emberfall has caused her to have to be more stubborn and self preserving than she would otherwise be, normally allowing her brother to take the lead in situations. I obviously wasn’t thrown into a fantastical world but I do remember this journey of self discovery and self reliance when I became a disabled single mother at 18, and watching Harper grow at only a little bit younger than I was myself during that journey resonated with me strongly.
The storyline managed to maintain being unique whilst still being a retelling, something that is a skill, and keeps the book enjoyable. I may have watched Beauty and the Beast as a child endless times, but this book was still something conjured from an individual place, and it was a lovely journey that we watch the characters follow.
I felt for Rhen, and wanted to give him a hug at points, at the same time as I wanted to hug Harper, with everything she was coping with. The characters were clearly defined and well rounded, with perfectly leveled imperfections. I haven’t yet bought the sequal but think I will, as I do want to see more of these characters, and see where they go, together and separately.