Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But 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.
Like many others, I love Beauty and the Beast and I can’t get enough BatB retellings. This was such an interesting take on the original that it kept the story feeling fresh and new which I appreciated.
The setting to this book is pretty neat. It starts out in modern day DC and then our heroine is accidentally transported to another world. Or maybe a world within a parallel dimension. Either way, we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Harper ends up in Emberfall, a kingdom in a pre-industrial world. So not only does Harper have to deal with essentially being captive due to the circumstances of the curse, but the weirdness of the cursed castle, and being in a completely unfamiliar world. I felt like the setting was a good choice because, ultimately, it helped with Harper being able to gain confidence and control over her own life.
The thing I liked most about this is that it’s a story about a girl coming into her own. By the end of the story Harper is so much more confident then she is at the start. She’s done letting everyone else’s circumstances determine her life path, she’s taking charge, making decisions for her own future. I also loved that she never let her disability get her down. Yes, she has certain limitations, but she’s capable is so many other ways. It’s just something normal for her, part of her life, not something to define her. I think there’s a great contrast there how her brother treats her at the beginning, like she’s incapable, and how Rhen and Grey see her once she comes to Emberfall, that helps her gain this confidence in her abilities. She’s capable and determined right from the beginning, but she doesn’t believe in herself. And that’s what she learns throughout the story. I loved that.
Besides Harper, I loved the other main characters too. Grey and Rhen were interesting to get to know. They’re both prickly with soft underbellies but in totally different ways. Grey is so disciplined in everything he does. Rhen gives all appearances of being completely undisciplined but once you get to know him you see how he’s actually very calculated in everything he does–even if it’s to his own detriment. The author is so great at creating emotional connections between the characters and the reader. I love it when I can stand in the character’s shoes and experience what they’re feeling, and this book delivers that in spades. There are so many great moments between Harper and Rhen and also Harper and Grey as they’re getting to know each other. There’s also a lot of those types of moments between Grey and Rhen. Bonding! I love bonding!
I feel like there are things about this that should have bothered me, like Harper coming in and suddenly here’s this teenager that’s going to save the world, because there is just so very much of that in YA that I get tired of it after a while. And yet, I didn’t mind it at all because this was all about Harper’s journey. So, kudos for making my usual niggles fly by the wayside with this one.
There was one or two small thing that I thought could have been better. One is a reveal later on near the end of the book. Well, it was fairly heavily foreshadowed in my opinion, so it wasn’t really one of those jaw dropping a surprises to me like it could have been. (Also, selfishly, I really wanted the story to go in another direction regarding the relationships but….well.) The other is that I thought the villain was pretty one dimensional. But those were tiny things that didn’t really take away much from my enjoyment reading this.
Overall, I really loved this unique retelling of an old tale. 4.5/5 stars.