Curses is a fairy-tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast that flips the script: the beast is the girl and the beauty is the boy. The reverse is fun and both of the protagonists were likeable. Perhaps the most delightful aspect of the book was the large ensemble of young adults and their commradery. A couple of groups of young people come together and all become friends while supporting the protagonists every step of the way. Their interactions and banter were light and natural. Because there were often many people in a scene, it was very confusing and repeatedly snagged up this reader that there was a non-binary character who was always referred to as they/them; this without fail required a passage to be rewound and reread to understand if it was they/them in the traditional sense or this particular non-binary character.
The fantasy world setting was only lightly developed, as it is mainly served as a backdrop for the events and the catalyst for the curse. The details of the world really weren’t critical and some of the scenes towards the end feel a little extraneous to the narrative, causing the end to drag a bit. This is a book that is firmly aimed at fairy-tale enthusiasts, and in general, will be enjoyed by them.
Review of a Digital Advance Reading Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Profanity/Language: 5 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name; 1 scatological word; 5 anatomical terms; 2 offensive hand gestures.
Violence/Gore: Magical plants entrap someone; brief brawl in a bar; description of weird curses (toad attached to someone’s head that would eat the person’s face) and injuries from them (broken teeth, etc.); injuries sustained in a magical transformation, blood mentioned, brief; character almost drowns; items thrown in anger at someone and some are broken; character punches mirror breaking mirror and injuring self; plan to kill someone; threatening animal; character knocked from horse; party attacked by fantasy animals result in injury and death of many of the creatures, blood mentioned; extended scene of panic with stampeding, bird biting someone, etc.; threat at pistol point; 2 characters fall to their death;
Sex/Nudity: A girl has another girl on her knee (romantic) in a tavern; female character(s) notice frequently how attractive a certain male character is; discussions about courting/engagement/marriage; female flirts with another female; explanation that a certain culture didn’t believe in strict gender binary; friend jokes with someone that they are worried about the knickers and not their heart; short, steamy sentence read from a romance novel; female attracted to a male and notices how good he smells; female character likes another female character and openly stares at her; female goes to a corner with another female; jokes about sexy wink; character is naked after a spell transformation (non-sexual); run fingers through another’s hair; couple seen embracing (non-descriptive); exhausted characters of opposite sex fall asleep next to one another on bed (non-sexual); character recalls prior kisses; characters of opposite sex kiss; long passionate kiss between characters; teasing someone about being kissy face with someone else; female and male characters embrace, kiss; characters of same sex dance together.
Mature Subject Matter:
Death, same-sex courting/flirting, parental neglect/emotional abuse/manipulation/use of children, theft/crime.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Cigars are smoked; taverns where ale is drunk; wine is drunk at social gatherings; flower’s properties are used to create a drug that temporarily lifts curses; reference to drinking and throwing up; character affected by plant hallucinates; character gets other drunk on purpose; alcohol given to an animal (it gets drunk).