A Curse so Dark and Lonely, by Brigid Kemmerer. Young Adults
Seventeen-year-old Cerebral Palsy sufferer Harper and her older brother Jake are in trouble in Washington DC: their father has abandoned the family with huge debts; their mother is a terminal cancer patient, and the people from whom their dad borrowed want their money back yesterday – with interest, the interest being Jake as enforcer and standover man to extort money out of other unfortunate debtors. Harper is Jake’s reluctant look-out when he works as a heavy, until one night she sees a woman being attacked by a man not far from where she is hiding. Without thinking she grabs an old tire-iron and gives the attacker a good swipe – and finds herself hoisted up and dragged away, away into an alarming parallel world that bears no relation to her own in real life, for she is transported by her abductor Commander Grey to a fairy-tale castle inhabited by a handsome prince, and no, she wasn’t dropped on her head on the way: she is now a captive in the realm of Emberfall, and is part of a curse that lays upon the land, a curse so dark and lonely that it seems no-one can break it.
The curse has been imposed by an enchantress called Lilith, and can only be broken by true love (truly! Sound familiar?) between the handsome Prince Rhen and whichever young woman Commander Grey manages to purloin from the other side: so far, results have been very sketchy, especially as Rhen turns into a monster every month and lays waste to anything that moves, including most of his subjects and all of the castle inhabitants, including the royal family. Commander Grey is still alive because he’s a fast mover. Believe it or not.
And, needless to say, the arrival of Harper with her palsied leg does not inspire Prince Rhen toward any affectionate feelings – until Harper (after she has accepted her impossible circumstances) shows an aptitude for strategy, planning and tactics that are an unexpected and refreshing change from the norm: handicapped Harper from DC becomes Princess Harper of Disi, a powerful and entirely fictitious ally of Emberfall, and there to promise Disi’s thousands of fictional troops to save the country’s inhabitants from a hostile Queen’s border attacks, the evil enchantress, and the monster, who is scheduled to make his dreaded appearance soon.
This is a great blend of fantasy, fairy tale and hard lessons in the Big City, and Ms Kemmerer leaves so many questions hanging that she must have Book Two underway. Well, I hope so: - what about Commander Grey, eh? What’s happening with him?! FOUR STARS.