My Issue With the Ending of A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

by - July 17, 2019

If you haven't read my review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely yet, then CLICK HERE.

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! Please read at your own risk.

So, a recap of the ending:

The curse is broken. Harper has fallen in love with Rhen. Rhen is now fully human. The villain is dead. Gray has sacrificed himself.

Or has he?

Plot twist: Gray is alive. Gray is in hiding because he faked his death. Gray is actually Rhen's half-brother and therefore the rightful elder heir to the throne.

For once, Gray escapes. He knows that Rhen and Harper must be distraught over his fake-death, but he decides that he has to run. It's a very sudden piece of character development considering he's spent the entire novel at Rhen's side out of his very strong sense of duty.

What will Gray do in Book 2? I don't know. I don't know if he'll be forced to fight against Rhen or if he'll have his own plot line. Either way, such a reveal was disappointing. I feel like it just negates the themes that Kemmerer had been building up throughout the novel.

If there's one lesson that A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY champions well, it's that the outside doesn't matter. It's a person's heartthe insidethat truly matters. Titles (or a lack thereof), social class, gender, abilities and disabilitiesthese things do not dictate whether or not a person is good or noble. It's always the actions, the choices, that have meaning in the end.

Imagine Harper, the brat from DC, becoming Princess Harper of Disi. Near the end, even Rhen marvels at how well she plays the role of a princess. Harper has the strength and bravery of any royal, even without her royal blood. Even with her palsy. Even if she's not from this world. Her fake identity becomes her true identity because of her heart.

And Rhen, the prince and heir to Emberfall, was cursed in the first place because he was such an asshole. Even when he learns to be kind and caring, he's still too cold, too calculating, too awkward when dealing with other people. That's why Gray could befriend Harper even before he could. And look at how he treated Gray at the beginningalmost cruelly just for his own entertainment.

And then there's Gray: the farmer's son who is the most honorable among them all. Even after Rhen dismisses him, even after he spends an eternity trapped in this curse, he refuses to leave because he made an oath. Of course we all know that he's friends with Rhen and Harper, but nobody can deny how strong his heart is. He chooses to suffer alongside his liege simply because it's the right thing to do. [And because he trusts him, but trust can only go so far]

So with these three main characters, A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY keeps proving that the bloodline doesn't matter. That titles don't matter. That anyone can be a ruler as long as they're strong enough. It's a very noble theme.

And then, of course, all of that is destroyed when it's revealed that Gray is Rhen's half-brother and the rightful heir to the throne.

Obviously Gray didn't know this. His blood doesn't change the fact that he spent years doing the right thing for the sake of righteousness. But it does change the implications. So bloodline and titles matter, now? So things have to change because Rhen isn't the prince, now? Was Gray only this important because he's the secret heir?

Do you see where I'm going?

So many royalty books focus on bloodlines and secret children, and I get it. It's exciting. But A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY was refreshing because it focused on average people, not the usual royals. It was great how Harper became a princess, rather than being born as one. It was great to see Rhen regain his kingdom and learn what it truly means to be a prince. It was great to see Gray as the best of the groupeven though he was just a guard.

Quite frankly, I feel like this novel should have been a standalone. The plot has pretty much wrapped up. The curse is broken. The evil has been defeated. Rhen and Harper have fallen in love. Gray is freed from his oath. All could have been okay. All could have been happy. Sure, Rhen's eligibility is questioned, but who even cares?! The rest of the royal family is dead! The only other possible loose end is the fact that there are still angry witches hiding around, but that quest can be solved by the main trio even without Gray becoming New Prince.

Nowadays, it's difficult to find a YA fantasy novel that isn't part of a series. I hope that more writers and publishers realize that you don't always need to serialize a work. Or at least, if they want to serialize it, they should actually make a cliffhanger that makes sense. It was still a decent book despite this gripe. Sad how an epilogue can really break one's opinion of a story.

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