The curse is broken. Harper has remained in Emberfall with her brother Jake and his boyfriend, Noah, and with Rhen. With no sign of Grey, rumours of another heir threatening to break the kingdom apart, added to the fact people believe the alliance with ‘Disi’ is a scam, something must be done.
Grey has killed the enchantress Lilith and returned to Emberfall, but with a secret he is unable to share with Rhen, he goes into hiding, taking on the name ‘Hawk’ and working at a tournament ground, staying as hidden as he possibly can.
Look, I’m going to be honest. I was completely and utterly revved up for this book. I don’t often pre-order books, but I did for this one, cause damn was I keen on returning to Emberfall.
Unfortunately, this is one of those sequels that makes you wish the original was a standalone.
I gave this 4*s on Goodreads because Kemmerer’s writing is, in all fairness, fantastic – it’s vivid and beautiful. And the last third of the book had me hooked, but before that…
Well it took a while to get into this one.
The book starts with Harper, then shifts into two POVs which take over for the novel – Grey and Lia Mara, the eldest daughter of Karis Luran but not the heir, that honour going to her sister, instead. And that’s where I felt like the book let me down first. Karis Luran enters Emberfall with her daughters, keen to marry off her heir to Rhen and forge an alliance with Emberfall.
For a lot of the book, I found Lia Mara to be overly whiny and woe-is-me. She’s not helpless, at all, but every other sentence was about how her sister is stronger and how her sister is going to be queen and how she doesn’t match up to her sister and mother. I think a lot of her, especially in earlier chapters, felt forced, too. Like there were moments that felt less relevant to the plot, and there only so we could have some slight reason to like her.
She had some strong moments, but these were overshadowed by the really annoying ones. And then there is Grey. Although I didn’t fully buy into the idea of a love triangle in A Curse So Dark and Lonely, it was evident here, and felt like there was going to be a bit of a build up between Harper and Grey. But nope, we’re quickly whisked away from Harper almost as soon as we get a tiny glimpse of her.
The romance between Grey and Lia Mara, again, felt a little forced. Grey remains one of my favourite characters, but so much of this book was him – and yep, again – whining. Following motions and never really doing much of anything until he was backed into a corner. I liked the way he did react to certain situations, as it’s clear he’s still very much a guardsman, and once more, a lot of the issues I found in the first half disappeared in the second.
Regarding Rhen and Harper now. In A Curse, I absolutely loved the three characters who formed the focus on the book. Harper was a strong, powerful woman who did not put up with anything untoward from either Grey or Rhen. Rhen was troubled and tortured and desperate to do anything to save his kingdom, and throughout the novel it really felt like he grew as a character.
We get none of that growth in this book, none of Harper’s fierceness. Every time we see her, she’s running to greet one of the men in her life or blushing under Grey’s praise. She basically lets Rhen torture people, she sits back while his kingdom is falling to pieces around him because he’s too stubborn to do really consider any option except kill. There are moments near the start of the book where Grey could have actually spoken to Rhen, but they all decide that nope, dying is the best option so let’s just get this over with!
Okay! Things I liked, because I did like a few things. I liked the relationship between Lia Mara and her sister. I liked the additional characters we meet in this novel, and the way the discord among the populace is shown. We also get to see more magic here, used in much better ways, and it works well.
This book isn’t as good as A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which felt more natural in terms of plot progression, character development and the choices made by the characters. Instead, we have two intelligent characters who go around in circles seeming to make life more difficult for themselves, making it feel like everything they do is in service to the plot rather than the world around them. The writing remains beautiful, and Kemmerer clearly has a way with words, but unfortunately the two main characters we follow in this book have less of an impact than both Harper and Rhen, two characters thrust aside for the sequel, whose presence could have made this book that much stronger.