Fantasy, Young Adult

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Amazon.com: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (The Cursebreaker Series ...

Pages: 484

Series: Cursebreakers #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: January 29, 2019

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. 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 constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? 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.”

What Did I Think?

A Curse So Dark and Lonely was my very first Brigid Kemmerer book, and I can honestly say that it totally lived up to all the hype surrounding its release,

The overall concept of A Curse So Dark and Lonely in some ways fits what I was expecting from a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but also completely broke away from any preconceived notions I had before giving it a read. The bones of the story remain the same as the tale: a curse that needs to be broken, a misunderstood beast, and a distraught (at first) damsel who has the power to break the curse and save the land. I loved that this retelling creates a modern twist to the tale by having the perfect blend of time spent in modern-day Washington, DC and that spent in Emberfall, the story’s magical land. I really enjoyed the fact that it was told from both Rhen and Harper’s perspectives in alternating chapters, as they both have such distinct voices and life experiences that are equally important to the story. As a whole, I found the overall concept to be intriguing from the very first page. Pair that with the beautiful writing and world-building, and I am SOLD.

Harper’s character was one of those I don’t foresee myself forgetting for a long time (if ever!). As we learn early on, she has a pretty rough home life. Her brother is trying to make ends meet by taking less than ideal jobs from a group of criminals in DC, and Harper spends her time watching over him and their terminally ill mother. I’ve never read a book where the protagonist has cerebral palsy, and I found reading about Harper’s struggles with this condition in her daily life really enlightening, as I wasn’t all that familiar with what someone with a less severe case of this condition goes through to accomplish everyday tasks. Though she doesn’t have a cream puff life, Harper is a SPIT FIRE, let me tell ya! She has sass, class, and is totally kick… err, you can fill in the blanks on that last one, but I absolutely loved all of the moments where we got to see Harper open a can of kick butt up on someone, as well as when the more compassionate side of her personality shined through. While Harper has a whole lotta layers, all of the facets that made up her characterization worked together beautifully. I can’t wait to see how her character has changed (and stayed the same, in some ways!) in Book #2.

Rhen, Rhen, Rhen. While the whole “tortured male lead that decides to just hide his problems from everyone” trope isn’t my favorite, I thought having his character fit this mold worked perfectly in this case due to A Curse So Dark and Lonely being a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Rhen is the prince of Emberfall, and for someone who was cursed at the age of 18 by the evil enchantress Lillith, he has had a rough go at life so far. In order to break the curse that has held him hostage for so long, he has to fall in love, but this is obviously easier said than done. What I liked about Rhen’s character the most was that even though Grey’s job is to protect him and Harper was brought to Emberfall to essentially serve as a contestant on The Bachelor, Rhen protects those he’s close to fiercely and doesn’t let his past mistakes dictate the decisions he makes in the present. I also loved the fact that while he is haunted by his past, Rhen cares deeply about the people he rules over (as the reader sees time and time again) even if his subjects don’t realize it. While I enjoyed Rhen’s character in this book, I’m looking forward to getting to know him in a more sincere way (if I had to pick one fault, it was that I couldn’t connect to his character in this book) and seeing how Harper’s presence changes him as the series goes on.

Last but certainly not least, let’s discuss Commander (aka Scary) Grey. If I had to pick a favorite male character from this book, it would 100 percent be Grey, hands down. Even though he’s around the same age as Rhen and Harper, he is definitely wise beyond his years. I cracked up every time he gave Rhen advice (good advice at that!) because he sounded like a legit prophet or something. He was the only guard to survive a brutal attack on Emberfall, and now serves as Prince Rhen’s personal guard (and, maybe just maybe is also his only true friend). I loved that even though Grey was super hardcore on the outside, he also had a softer side to him that was hard not to love. I think everyone needs a friend like Grey — smart, witty, and loyal to the core. After that ending, I am so excited (but also slightly afraid!) to see what’s up with Grey in the next book!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely was one of those books that I found myself unable to put down. The plot was perfectly paced and full of action, the journeys of the characters were both heartbreaking and compelling. Kemmerer’s writing style was the icing on this beautiful cake that made this story come straight off the page. I’m really looking forward to picking up the next book, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, in the very near future!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’ve read Brigid Kemmerer’s other works and enjoyed her beautifully whimsical writing style, you should totally check out A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

I’d also recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast-paced fantasy read with complex, witty, and clever characters that are sure to steal your heart. Oh, and did I mention that there’s a little dash of romance as well? If you’re into all of these things, go get you a copy of this book!

Fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Holly Black, and Sarah J. Maas will also likely enjoy A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

Fantasy, Young Adult

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air Series #1) by Holly Black ...

Pages: 370

Series: The Folk of the Air #1

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: January 2, 2018

Genre(s): Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.”

What Did I Think?

I was totally down for some fey folktale reading when I hit this book up, and it did not disappoint. Other readers have said that Holly Black’s fey worlds are virtually unmatched, and after reading this book, I can see why! I love how Black’s writing style matches the whimsical setting she’s writing about, as well as all the beautiful world-building she manages to do in just a few short chapters. I was totally entranced when learning about the grandiose lifestyles of the fey, which made up for my lack of love towards a good many of those that lived there (sorry not sorry to say, because some of them are JERKS). I also thought the family tree situation was intriguing (and slightly depressing), particularly when we learn how Jude and her sisters ended up with Madoc in the first place. As a whole, I thought the overall concept of The Cruel Prince was unique and well constructed.

*Let me just preface this section of my review by saying that these characters weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Sure, I enjoyed some elements of a good many of them, but overall, I struggled to connect and appreciate their personalities (I know, I’m terrible, but bear with me and hear me out, kayy kayy?).*

Let’s start with Jude. One of the things I really admired about Jude was the fact that she was quick to stand up for herself and her family when the fey would talk smack about them, as well as her willingness to fight for those in a place she wasn’t even born in (and, at times, doesn’t even particularly like). Even though Jude is a human living in Faerie, she fiercely tries to make it the best place it can be when push comes to shove. I found myself appreciating the fact that she was a total spitfire and was quick to follow her instincts, even when others tried to dissuade her from what she believed to be true. However, I have to say that the biggest issue I had with Jude was her jealously of the fey. At first I thought, “Okay, this makes sense. They have a lot of things she never will,” but this point came up so much that it made her seem immature, when for the rest of the book, I thought her characterization made her more mature than most people her age would have been. This was more of an issue of moderation for me, rather than just not understanding or liking the fact that Jude was jealous of the Fae. Other than that, I found Jude’s character appealing, and I look forward to seeing how her character evolves in the next book.

Oh, Cardan. One of my least favorite tropes in YA basically sums up (almost) the entirety of his character: the misunderstood male character. Ughh. While I think the goal was to show that Cardan isn’t as cruel as he appears at face-value, the damage was already kind of done by the time I realized this was the point of his character. I didn’t find myself wanting to know all that much about him because he just seemed to be a terrible dude. However, a trait I did find myself appreciating was the fact that he would secretly perform acts of kindness for other people — at least then I knew he really did have a heart in there, which was questionable for a good chunk of the book. I also have to point out that he has a pretty dope fashion sense that I couldn’t help but admire, so here’s to hope that saving grace continues to be around in the next book! I’m also hoping (begging, really) for some development and more background on Cardan so then I can sympathize and, heck, maybe even like the guy by the end of the series.

While I had some issues with the main characters, I thought the supporting characters were awesome! Madoc has so many layers to him, and I look forward to seeing how his character keeps progressing as the series goes on, particularly when it comes to his relationship with Jude. I also found myself really enjoying learning more about Jude’s sisters, Vivi and Taryn and seeing how they react so differently to each of the events that took place.

One of the major issues I had with this book were the romances. I didn’t feel invested in who was with who, and in some cases, I found the partnerships completely unhealthy for both individuals involved. I’m definitely looking for more development here in the other books in the Folk of the Air series because I’m always look for more couple to make ship names for, but at this point in time, the romance is a no-go for me.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading The Cruel Prince. I’m a sucker for books about fey, and this book totally fulfilled my dream of learning more about them and the super magical lives they live. The plot was fast-paced, and the plot twists were very well positioned — I never knew when they were coming! With the exception of a few (somewhat large, now that I reflect?) issues, I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince and I’m looking forward to continuing this highly-loved series!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re like me and looking for a book that takes place in a magical world full of fey, I’d highly recommend this book to you!

I’d also suggest fans of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series and Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series give The Cruel Prince a shot.

Fantasy, Young Adult

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Amazon.com: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass series Book 1) eBook ...

Pages: 406

Series: Throne of Glass #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: August 7, 2012

Genre(s): Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.”

What Did I Think?

 If I had to pick one word to describe my feelings about Throne of Glass, it would have to be WOW.

The overall concept of this book is darker and has more elements of mystery than I usually look for in the books I pick up, but let me tell ya: I am so glad I still decided to give Throne of Glass a read! I thoroughly enjoyed all the moving parts this book has to offer, from the competition that kicks off everything to the literal magic going on behind the scenes as one of many subplots. While the plot line was a little more intense than what I traditionally read, I enjoyed that the more serious moments of the book were balanced out by the funny wit and sarcasm of the characters. The overall concept of this book is very complex, and I loved the fact that I had to be an active reader (i.e constantly thinking about everything that was happening, just like the characters had to be) in order to fully enjoy and understand the world Maas created.

If I had a red carpet, I would literally roll the thing out just for Celaena Sardothian because she deserves it, baby! Not only is she physically strong, but she’s also got some serious mental toughness about her, too, given the baggage she has from her past experiences. This young woman has been on quite the journey before the reader even gets to meet her, and I had such a great time watching the stories of her past unfold little by little as the book went on, as sad as some (err, most) of them were. I still can’t believe how she has been able to retain such a compassionate side to her when so many people around her have betrayed her and done her wrong. It’s very rare that I read about characters who are constantly able to think on their feet and come up with creative solutions to problems, but Celaena doesn’t miss a beat when something unexpected is thrown her way. While I can’t say that she has drastic amounts of character development in this book, I don’t think Celaena really needs it at this stage of the game, as we learn a whole lot about who she was prior to going to Endovier and how various experiences in her life have made her who she is when the reader gets to meet her. It was almost like reverse character development, which I thought was a unique approach to establishing Caelena’s characterization and not something that typically doesn’t steals the show in other YA novels.

Moving right along to one of my favorite bromances out there: Dorian and Chaol! Being the Price of Adarlan and Captain of the Royal Guard, these two certainly have a whole of responsibility on their shoulders, and being so young, I can’t even imagine the pressures they must feel to perform their duties spotlessly. While I enjoyed their individual journeys, I fell in love with the little moments where these two would spend time together, responsibilities aside, as best friends– goofing off, picking on each other, and even having a little bit of fun! As a whole, I thought Dorian and Chaol were both very likable for totally different reasons: Dorian, because he has a subtle, admirable strength to him that hides underneath his charming exterior, and Chaol because his serious, get-down-to-business attitude cracks to show a softer side of him, especially when it comes to his interactions with Celaena. While I’d love to share my thoughts on who I ship with Celaena, I think I’m going to save those for a later review (you’ll thank me later, trust me), but I will say that I really enjoyed the romantic themes that were established in Throne of Glass thus far. No spoilers from me, dearies, so you’ll have to pick your ship pairing for yourselves!

Clearly I can’t help but rave about Throne of Glass! I thought it was very well paced, and I found myself completely engrossed in what was happening from beginning to end. I loved the characters and the intricately detailed world Maas created and established so clearly for us so we will be ready to go for the other books in the series and won’t need too much background moving forward. The characters were so much fun (I even liked the villains, as twisted as that sounds), and I am absolutely stoked to share my thoughts on Book #2, Crown of Midnight, with you all in the very near future!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*Due to mature content (i.e. violence, romance, and some language) I would only recommend this book to individuals who are 16/17+ years old!*

If you’ve read Maas’ ACOTAR series and/or House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) and thoroughly enjoyed the world-building and intriguingly mysterious and witty characters, I highly recommend you give Throne of Glass a shot!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Leigh Bardugo, Holly Black, and Brigid Kemmemer.

And lastly, if you’re in the mood to read a more mature YA fantasy that requires a while lot of thought so you don’t miss any important details, Throne of Glass will definitely be the book that’ll keep you on your toes!