When it comes to fairytale retellings, Beauty and the Beast really is a tale as old as time. I am 99.9% sure that it is the most common retelling out there, and it comes in a large variety of forms and derivations. A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY is the latest hot take of this popular fairytale, following in the wake of books like A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, where they try to make the story even more palatable by their young (and mostly female) audience by making the beast "hot." Tamlin was a hot faerie who wore a spooky mask, and Rhen, the hero in this book, is a hot prince who kidnaps girls in an attempt to cure this werewolf-esque curse that occasionally turns him into an unspecific beast.
I have gone on many rants about how making the characters in these sorts of books hot ruins the message, so I'm not going to go through that whole song and dance again here. I'm here to review A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY for its plot, which has my friends pretty much evenly split when it comes to opinion. Half of them loved it, half of them hated it, and a few of them fell smack dab in the middle... like me. So why so polarizing?
This is not a novel story. It doesn't bring anything new to the table. A lot of the preliminary reviews were hyping this up like nobody's business when it kind of just reads like an attempt to cash in on the Sarah J. Maas bandwagon. The writing is a cut above but it does feel derivative as all get out.
Harper is just not a very compelling heroine. She has problems, sure, like a mother with cancer and a brother who is involved in a gang, but those problems never really feel real. You know what reading this reminded me of? Do any of you remember Quizilla? There was a user on there whose books I was obsessed with as a kid, and she wrote all kinds of Goth stories about a heroine who was just like you and me only, you know, Emo/Goth, and nobody understood her-- except for the hot, slightly evil and deranged paranormal guy whose world she randomly gets sucked into one day.
This book felt a lot like that. I do appreciate the attempt to include diversity by giving the heroine a disability but I'm not entirely sure how on point the cerebral palsy rep is in this book, as the heroine in this book has a very mild version of it. The only people I've met with CP had much more severe versions.
Rhen is not a very compelling hero. He's attractive, sure, but I actually liked Grey a lot better, and I felt like the whole book was gunning for a love triangle that never actually happened. Rhen is kind of a jerk. He has his guard kidnap women for him and then sits around waiting for them to love him and acting all angsty and sad when being in his presence isn't enough to cause them to fall madly in love with him therefore ending another massive slaughtering spree. He was dumb and arrogant, which is not a good blend. I can deal with dumb and sweet (Fry from Futurama) or arrogant and smart (any hero from any Anne Stuart romance novel ever written) but not dumb and arrogant. No thanks.
The story was just compelling enough that I felt invested to the point of seeing it to the end, but I'm not at all interested in the sequel and I wouldn't recommend this book to others. There are much better fairytale retellings with more likable heroines and heroes, and I feel like this book was much longer than it actually needed to be and spent its page time on all the wrong things.
Your mileage may vary, of course.
2.5 out of 5 stars