Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. null
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. null
Disability Representations: , ,
Series Number: 1
Published: January 29th 2019
Page Count: 484
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.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely was recommended to me as a book with disability representation for GeekDis when I asked for recommendations. I’m glad it was available on Scribd because it was a great book and had great disability representation too! Read on to find out more 🙂

Content Warnings:


There are a lot of violent scenes in this book, including scenes of battles, massacres, and physical and mental torture and abuse.

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A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a stunning dark fairytale novel with a no-nonsense heroine, a captivating and complicated prince and a host of interesting background characters. Of course, I fell in love with the book very quickly! Kemmerer’s lush storytelling paints a modern reimagining of a fairytale many of us know well, Beauty and the Beast, and adds some much-needed realism into the story. Our protagonist Harper is disabled, born with Cerebral Palsy, and several characters have mental health conditions as a result of the curse they have been forced to live with. Due to the sorceress’ cruelty and other events that have happened, this includes PTSD, and Kemmerer doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of living under a magical curse unlike most authors. There’s only so much hope you can have for it to be broken, after all.

By whisking a disabled young woman from present day into a fantasy world that has zero mod-cons, Kemmerer provides an opportunity to look at disability from a completely different perspective. In Emberfall “disabilities” don’t exist, and it is instantly assumed by Emberfall citizens that Harper must have been injured in battle; why else would she walk with a limp? More than once, Harper has to explain that she’s not injured, and it’s interesting to see how the characters react to her disability. She still has to deal with people’s judgements, but this time it isn’t that she’s not capable, it’s that she is more capable because they assume she got her “injury” doing something heroic. Kemmerer takes care not to erase Harper’s identity as a disabled person, however, and I wanted to make that very clear placing a disabled character in a world where disability doesn’t exist is tricky. On the one hand it can be used to interrogate the issue of ableism and prejudice, using it to compare attitudes, which is what Kemmerer does, however, it can just as easily go very wrong and erase disability entirely.

So how does Kemmerer ensure that doesn’t happen? It’s not just one thing. It’s many little things throughout, A Curse So Dark and Lonely. I’d like to emphasise that I don’t have Cerebral Palsy, so I can’t comment on how accurate the representation is, and I’m curious to know what someone with the condition thinks of this book **. But as someone with multiple chronic conditions I noticed every time that there was reference to how Harper felt physically, to her recognising how her body was moving and how aware she was of her place in both worlds. In particular, the amount of attention paid to her breathing and how it changed dependent on what she was doing or how she was feeling (a lot of writers tend to miss that emotions affect respiratory conditions) was very noticeable to me.  In the Acknowledgements at the back of the book, Kemmerer credits the details of Harper’s Cerebral Palsy to a sensitivity reader and I believe her when she says it made all the difference. It gives it the authenticity that it needs, and I wish that more nondisabled authors incorporated sensitivity readers into their editing process for this very reason.

** Many thanks to Tonia who passed a review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely onto me by Dear CP who has Cerebral Palsy. You can read their chapter by chapter review of the book here. Straight away the most notable thing was that the author incorrectly misspelt the condition (and as a result, so did I in this review, which I’ve now corrected). That is something that the sensitivity reader, in my opinion, should have picked up. Of course, the author and the publisher do not have to take all the recommendations of the sensitivity reader under advisement, it is, after all, only “advice”.

GeekDis Book Giveaway!

Throughout September, I am giving away some of the books that I am reviewing for GeekDis!

This giveaway is part of GeekDis, a collaborative event for members of the disability community to talk about disability representation in pop culture. You can learn more about GeekDis and see all the content myself and others have been creating here! To help spread awareness about the need for disability representation in pop culture, I am giving away books that feature disability representation.

I am giving away any book with disability representation that costs no more than £10.99 on The Book Depository at the time of the giveaway. All eligible books will be marked with GIVEAWAY in the title, just like this one, so keep an eye out for them! You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for notifications of new book reviews.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions

By entering this giveaway, you are agreeing to the following terms and conditions:

  1. This giveaway is open internationally to any country that The Book Depository delivers to for free (a list is available here).
  2. The prize is only for reviewed books marked as “GeekDis” and “Giveaway”. A list can be found here.
  3. Participants must be over the age of 18.
  4. Family members of Heather T  of Just Geeking By are prohibited from taking part in any of the giveaways.
  5. Shares to social media accounts must be PUBLIC and visible for entries to be seen and counted.
  6. Therefore, private or locked social media accounts may not take part in any “share activities”.
  7. Any discriminatory or ableist comment given towards the disabled community that is made as a part of any action while entering the competition will result in automatic rejection from all giveaways at Just Geeking By. This is because GeekDis is an event designed to spread awareness about disability representation, not hate.

For the full Terms and Conditions, please see here.

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