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Book: “Cursed” by Marissa Meyer
Publishing Info: Feiwel and Friends, November 2022
Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+
Book Description: Adalheid Castle is in chaos.
Following a shocking turn of events, Serilda finds herself ensnared in a deadly game of make-believe with the Erlking, who is determined to propel her deeper into the castle’s lies. Meanwhile, Serilda is determined to work with Gild to help him solve the mystery of his forgotten name and past.
But soon it becomes clear that the Erlking doesn’t only want to use Serilda to bring back his one true love. He also seeks vengeance against the seven gods who have long trapped the Dark Ones behind the veil. If the Erlking succeeds, it could change the mortal realm forever.
Can Serilda find a way to use her storytelling gifts for good—once and for all? And can Serilda and Gild break the spells that tether their spirits to the castle before the Endless Moon finds them truly cursed?
Previously Reviewed: “Gilded”
Review: Back when I reviewed “Princess of Souls,” I went on a mini rant about Macmillan only handing out one ARC per day to each individual during ALA. And back when I reviewed “Gilded” last week, I went on another mini rant against myself for delaying reading this duology. Well, combine those two and you and get the rant where I missed out on an ARC for “Cursed” at ALA because a.) I hadn’t gotten around to reading the first one and b.) they were only handing out one ARC, so I picked “Princess of Souls”…
Expecting a child and engaged to the evil Erkling, Serilda’s prospects really couldn’t be worse. Add on top of that the fact that her beloved village children are trapped under the Erkling’s curse, and she cannot tell her love and the father of her child, Gild, any of this for fear of tipping off the Erkling to her plans. With the clock ticking on her pregnancy, Serilda is desperate to find a way to save the children, Gild, and her own baby. But as she works to uncover the secret history of the land, she discovers that the Erkling’s game is much greater than she had suspected.
I pretty much read this book immediately after finishing up “Gilded.” I think it really worked being read in this way, as the story picks up immediately after the previous one kicks off. It really could feel like one, longer book. In some ways, I think it was even improved on for being read this way. As, given the way the action of the entire duology is spread out, this book opens on the lull before the story. The previous book set it all up, but this stories opens with Serilda in a fairly impossible situation. Ultimately, as judged on its own, I do think this one struggled a bit more with pacing right off the the bat because of this. As the story continued, there were long swaths of time where very little happened. There were also large changes in scenery and situation that would also feel a bit like they petered out into yet another lull. But, overall, I do think the plotting and pacing work, if they are a bit more jumbled than in the first book.
This is still very much Serilda’s story, and I continued to enjoy her as a main character. I thought the way Meyers handled her pregnancy was interesting (if a bit of a cop out in certain ways), and Serilda’s relationship with the children of her village and the child she will soon bring into the world remains her primary motivation and focus. The romance is, of course, still very sweet. But, if anything, this book reinforced again and again that this is not the relationship at the core of Serilda’s world, as much as she loves Gild. I really liked this. Not only is it refreshing to read about a main character who’s motivational relationship is not yet another romantic interest, but Meyers used this opportunity to continue to build on what was, really, a very bare bones start to Gild and Serilda’s relationship (Serilda even spends time reflecting on whether or not she truly can say she’s “in love” with Gild having only known him for a total of three nights at this point). However, perhaps unsurprising to those familiar with my pet peeves, I did struggle on and off with why Serilda continued to keep so many secrets from Gild. She seemed to be very dismissive of his ability to keep a secret or remain level-headed in front of the Erkling. But…isn’t he the one who’s been successfully dealing with this cruel king for centuries?
The story did take good number of unexpected turns along the way, and I think this really worked. As I said, there were lulls to the story, but every time I began to get the first hints of tedium, Meyers would throw a massive switch into things, and I’d find myself facing almost a completely new story and challenge. I think this worked very well and helped combat some of the pacing issues. I was able to predict a few of these reveals, but the way everything came to light and played out still was surprising and fun. There was one final twist towards the end that I’m still not completely sure makes a lot of sense. But…eh, I could go with it.
This was a very solid conclusion to the duology. I think the pacing does knock it down from a 9 to an 8, for me. But it was still a very solid read and one I greatly enjoyed. Fans of the first book are sure to be pleased with this one (just don’t expect greatly increased Gild/Serilda action though!)
Rating 8: An excellent continuation and conclusion to a unique fairytale retelling, this book (and duology) is sure to please YA fantasy fans!