I’m back today with another review of a series. I enjoy reading series lately–lots of fun stories to experience and only one review! The Cursebreakers series by Brigid Kemmerer is a trilogy of epic fantasy. This series is an intense, heart pounding retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
This series was recommended to me by a dear friend. She called it “escape literature” and I think that’s the perfect category for them. The retelling of Beauty and the Beast aspect immediately had me interested! These books are action packed and fast paced. I couldn’t put them down. The plot twists and turns in the craziest ways and I couldn’t believe some of the surprising cliff hanger endings in the series. These books are poised to be the next big thing in YA fantasy.
**More spoilers than usual in this review including details about the ending to the series.
Consider reading the series before reading my review.**
- These books are a really clever fairy tale retelling, but they are also very intense. Be aware that there is some graphic violence in the battles and also torture. I would definitely recommend these for older YA readers and above. Also worth noting that there is a gay relationship in the series. Not anything in your face, but certainly worth being aware of. That didn’t bother me nearly as much as the violence did in a few particularly intense scenes.
- Can we just acknowledge that these covers are gorgeous? Seriously. I love them!
According to Goodreads, “Book 1: 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. . . . 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.
Book 2: Find the heir, win the crown. The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers. Win the crown, save the kingdom. Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?
Book 3: Face your fears, fight the battle. Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace. Fight the battle, save the kingdom. Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs. As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.“
My favorite part of these books is the multiple perspectives. I love getting inside both Harper and Rhen’s heads in the first book. It’s fascinating to see the same scenes from both of their eyes and how differently they react to the same situation. I loved the complexities of Rhen’s point of view when he changes into the beast as well. Their slow building relationship is a beautiful tribute to the classic fairy tale. We can see them changing towards each other as we get inside both of their heads. I was intrigued to get inside Grey’s head in book two. At first he really bugged me with his hiding and avoiding his problems. But as he learned magic and to trust others, I really enjoyed his narrations. Lia Mara was probably my favorite character to get her perspective. Her life and destiny is fascinating. I loved getting to know her better. The multiple perspectives in the finale are particularly well done as we get inside everyone’s heads and understand why they are making certain decisions. Although, some drama could be avoided with more communication and less thinking. I loved seeing how they felt about the action in the previous books as well. Definitely a highlight of the series is the narrative style!
The settings and connections between them are really clever and well developed. It was so interesting how Harper is from Washington DC and how our world is connected to that of Emberfall. I liked the idea that we could all get to Emberfall if we had the right sort of magic. Emberfall is beautiful and complex. I enjoyed learning about how the curse affects the country as a whole and how the people live and work. Syhl Shallow is an interesting contrast to Emberfall. The country has been ruled by very strong, intense women and appears to have no weakness. But the fear of magic is growing in that country and unity is hard to create. The worlds are well developed and exciting to explore. These countries offer a stunning backdrop for a fantastic trilogy of stories.
The four protagonists are unique and complex; I found things to love about all of them. Harper is a fantastic protagonist. I was surprised by her unique character and impressed how she isn’t defined by her cerebral palsy. She is strong, confident and willing to fight for what she believes in. I loved the way she defiantly works for what she wants from escape to swordplay to love. Rhen appears one dimensional at first but I loved getting to know him as the series progressed. He wants to appear in control and strong. But he doubts himself and doesn’t want to be defined by his past. His relationship with the monster inside him is fascinating. In the end, I think he’s the strongest character because he is willing to step aside instead of digging in his heels. His love for Harper is beautiful. Grey is an interesting protagonist. At times, I was really frustrated with him like when he runs away and isn’t willing to accept who he was. But I love how Lia Mara brings out the best in him. I love how she sees his qualities of leadership and compassion. I really liked the leader and potential ruler that Grey becomes. I loved Lia Mara. She is fascinating. The older sister who is passed up as heir. We learn that is because she is more compassionate and more kind. She cares about people. I really admired her. And again I loved how Grey sees her strengths and helps her see herself as strong and capable. Her story is intense and has some unbelievable twists. I felt sad for her for the burdens she must now carry. But excited for her bright future as well.
The two love stories in this series are beautiful, raw, and intense. Harper and Rhen seem destined to not be together. They start the series at odd with each other. Rhen is wrapped up in himself and the curse. Harper is determined to get back to Disi. But something changes–much like in the beloved fairy tale– and they start to care for each other. The way they can see the good in each other and see past their failings is beautiful. I love the ending of book one and how they save each other. And I love that they chose each other and their love over everything else in the finale. Grey and Lia Mara’s love story is also slow burning and intense. They get to know each other as they travel together. And their feelings are at odds with what they believe their futures must hold. I found the way they must navigate their expectations and their destinies so intriguing. Because they bring out each other’s strengthens, they are able to overcome so much. I love how tender and gentle Grey is with her and how completely they fall in love. In the final book, they all choose love and face their enemies and problems together. That is true love.
The magic in these books is unique and mysterious. I like how Grey goes on a journey with the reader to discover how it works and how to harness it. Very interesting how he can feel it and move it through himself to others. I like how he’s seeking to do good with his magic rather than hurt others like Lilith. There is a lot of fear surrounding magic in both kingdoms and it’s difficult to overcome that fear. Lilith uses fear and magic to torture and control people. She is hyper focused on revenge and will stop at nothing to get it. Grey and Iisak seek to use magic in other ways–to heal, to protect, and to defend. I enjoyed the lessons when they work at increasing magic and swordplay together. I was fascinated by how Grey learns to bring out Rhen’s monster and would have liked more details of how that works. Also I would have liked more details about the anti-magic artifacts. It’s not a flawless magical world but it does have a lot of intriguing elements.
The ending of the series is climactic and surprising but leaves too many plot lines unresolved for me. The action that brings Harper to Syhl Shallow is crazy and it’s clever how they all work together to defeat Lilith. I would have liked more details of how she escaped death in DC but I still couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. However, the very graphic torture had me skipping ahead a bit. The ending lacks closure. Everything seems in disarray still. I wanted a more clever, satisfying ending for Rhen. You can’t just introduce a pregnancy and not tell us about the child! No weddings which was disappointing. The countries are mostly still in chaos. We know Grey is to be king in Emberfall and Lia Mara still struggling to unify her people in Shyl Shallow but we don’t get any indication that things will get better. I wanted more things wrapped up rather than all the loose ends. Perhaps an epilogue or something that could resolve these. It didn’t feel like happily ever after. Overall, a bit disappointed. Great action and surprising twists but the ending fell flat and really hindered the whole book for me. I wish there was another book coming to answer a lot of the unknowns.
This is a clever and intense epic fantasy series that does so many things well. The characters are fantastic, the love stories are beautiful and romantic, and the action is surprising and thrilling. I loved the clever way the story retells Beauty and the Beast. While there is a lot of violence and the ending of the finale was a bit disappointing, this is still an exciting fantasy trilogy! If you want to escape into a thrilling adventure, these are the books for you!
What are some of your favorite fairy tale retellings?
Have you read the Cursebreakers series? What did you think?