Fierce Female Featurette: A Girl So Fierce and Clever

By: Cait Marie

In February, Ashley @ Falling Down the Book Hole organized the month-long Fierce Female Blog Tour. For that, I listed my top ten favorite fierce fictional females with power. Well, it’s time for the fall featurette! As soon as she posted asking for participants, I knew exactly what–or I should say whom–I wanted to talk about.

Having lived my entire life with a physical disability, I am all too aware of the lack of representation in fiction. Especially YA fantasy. The only time I’ve ever read about a character physically disabled in this genre is when the character was injured and paralyzed. Never had I seen someone born with a physical disability…

Until A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.

In the beginning of the year, I remember specifically telling a friend that I wanted to see more physical disabilities in YA fantasy. Then, this book dropped into my lap and I nearly cried. I bought it because it was our book of the month, but I honestly didn’t know what it was about until I received it. I chose it because of the cover and hype.

Not only is it a Beauty and the Beast retelling (I live for fairy tale retellings), but the main girl, Harper, has Cerebral Palsy! Here is a character I can finally relate to, even though our diagnosis and abilities differ. I haven’t been able to write a review yet because I just don’t think I will be able to do it justice; I won’t be able to truly put to words how much this book means to me–how much Harper means to me. Let’s give it a whirl anyway!

Back in Washington DC, her father disappeared, leaving them with a debt owed to a mafia-like group. Her brother is doing jobs for them to pay it off, but Harper is only ever allowed to be a lookout. His over-protectiveness is more than that of a sibling; he underestimates her because of her disability. Yet she knows she is capable of more. When Harper sees a woman in trouble, she tries to help her and ends up being kidnapped and transported to the magical world of Emberfall, where her entire life gets flipped upside down.

She’s thrown into this completely new situation, but she doesn’t just cower and accept it. She fights for her freedom until realizing that she’s safer with her captors than running into the wild. Then it is the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, with tweaks that make it its own. The prince is cursed to repeatedly live out the same season, attempting to get someone to fall in love with him before turning into a beast at the end. He knows Harper isn’t going to fall in love or be any different, but he quickly realizes that nothing about her is the same. And things begin to change around him.

Harper is not just fierce and determined, she’s clever. She learns fast in this new world, and when she tells people she’s the princess of “Disi,” she and the prince realize that a pretend alliance could help Emberfall. Soon, they are working together to help his people, who are on the verge of war.

For over three hundred repeating seasons, Rhen has hidden in his castle. Time outside of the castle grounds has continued as normal, and the people of Emberfall think the royal family has abandoned them. In reality, Rhen is the only one left.

While she doesn’t know that the prince is actually the feared beast, Harper knows he is cursed. She shows Rhen that there is still hope–that he can still help his people. She refuses to sit by and watch them suffer. And she does not let her disability hold her back. The one time she does question whether his people will think less of her, Rhen is quick to stop her.

“Enough.” His tone is sharp. “You can ride a horse. You faced down a swordsman to save Freya’s family. You faced down another at the inn. Still yet another attack this very morning.” He leans in against the table. His eyes have turned dark and angry. “You asked Grey to teach you how to throw knives, and you asked me to show you how to handle a bow. You have convinced my people that you rule a neighboring nation, and I don’t think you understand the magnitude of how very impressive that is.”

Brigid Kemmerer, A Curse So Dark and Lonely

This is my favorite part. I love the whole book, but the way he treats her and thinks of her–the way she continues to kick butt and never give up–is perfect. Brigid Kemmerer did a beautiful job of including this physical disability without focusing on it. It is brought up, and Harper must overcome certain difficulties because of it, but what I really love is how it shows that everyone struggles with different things. Like I always say, “Everyone has their own struggles. Mine are just a little more visible.” Which is what Kemmerer brought to life in this book. From the incredible way she retold one of my favorite fairy tales to the fierceness that is Harper, A Curse So Dark and Lonely is EVERYTHING.

I cannot wait to jump into my ARC of A Heart So Fierce and Broken!!

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