You all know at this point how passionate I am about my love for the Cursebreakers series. You also all know (or probably can imagine) that I spent the days leading up to the release of this book in a near-perpetual state of hyperventilation. And now here, at long last, is my review of my most anticipated book of 2021 that I will flatter myself by thinking you have been dying to read.
🚨 Full disclaimer that this review will NOT contain spoilers for any of the books in the series. Spoilers for any of the books will be marked as such. In particular, there is one important event from A Heart So Fierce and Broken that defines a lot of the character development in this book, so I’ll be referring to that event as *the incident* (very creative, I know).
So without further ado, let’s get started!
TITLE: A Vow So Bold and Deadly
AUTHOR: Brigid Kemmerer
GENRE: Fantasy (YA)
PUBLICATION: January 2021, Bloomsbury YA
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★
OFFICIAL BLURB (spoilers for previous books!)
Kingdoms will clash. Choose your side.
The incredible conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.
Face your fears, fight the battle.
Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone–even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.
Fight the battle, save the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.
As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.
Trigger warnings: knives, whipping & flogging (mentioned, recounted), mutilation (cutting out tongue, loss of an eye w/ permanent scarring), fire & explosions, blood & injuries, attempted murder, torture (graphic, recounted, on-page), sexual assault, death of a sibling (mentioned), death of a friend, mentions of loved ones serving overseas, ableism & ableist language, miscarriage (mentioned)
Content warnings: New section for readers who’d like more information before deciding to pick up a book!
- Sex: 3.5, on a scale from 1 to 5. Passionate kissing. Two fade-to-black sex scenes — (spoilers!) one of which leads to pregnancy (end of spoilers).
- Violence: 4, on a scale from 1 to 5. Torture, blood, injuries, assassination attempts, all of that stuff, sometimes quite graphic. See this website for more details (scroll down to the section A Lot or a Little? and click “Violence”).
- Language: 1.5, on a scale from 1 to 5. I don’t recall any profanity or swear words, just a few vulgar terms used here and there.
- Other things to note: This entire series takes place in a fantasy world, with depictions of magic, used both positively and negatively. There is quite a lot of drinking among adult characters, as well as one LGBT relationship between two important side characters.
A Vow So Bold and Deadly follows Rhen, Harper, Grey, and Lia Mara a short period of time after the events of A Heart So Fierce and Broken. Relations between the Syhl Shallow and Emberfall are strained, to say the least — the two countries are officially on the brink of war, and our characters are caught up in the messiness of it all. Rhen, Harper, Grey, and Lia Mara are under a lot of pressure in their own individual ways, as they each reckon with the decisions they made during Book 2. As tensions rise both politically and personally — and as an even greater threat reveals itself from the shadows — they must decide once and for all whether they’re willing to change the course of their very lives to defend what they stand for. (Gosh, I love writing these dramatic ends to blurbs. Always makes my day.)
To be honest with you all, I can’t believe this series started as a simple Beauty and the Beast retelling. We’ve come so far from mere enemies-to-lovers romance and dancing on the edges of cliffs (it’s a whole thing). This book continues to build on all the romance, sure, but we also get political frustration! Redemption arcs! Forgiveness! Resentment and anger and ill-advised decision-making! Woo!
To start it all off, we need to talk about the driving force of this series’s plot: the characters. First of all, Rhen. The tortured, angsty, PTSD-ridden prince we all know and (maybe) love. He messed up BADLY in A Heart So Fierce and Broken and I appreciated that we get some insight into his thought process and how he deals with the fallout after his mistakes. However, I found him
a bit very difficult to deal with at times. As the reader, it was hard to get over his actions from Book 2 so easily, which led to me taking a lot of what he does and says in this book the wrong way. (Like, every time he blamed Grey in part for *the incident*, I got so irritated. I was honestly so lost at times: how on earth is what happened supposed to be Grey’s fault?!) While I did eventually forgive Rhen, I spent most of the book being very annoyed at him, which is… not ideal. That being said, Rhen is definitely one of the more nuanced characters I’ve read as of late in YA fantasy. His flaws are 100% emphasized, but we also get to see his strengths and positives. I think Brigid wrapped up his character development in a very satisfying way.
Harper remains the fierce heroine who’s impulsive and rash but always willing to hear the other side of the story. I feel like her relationship with Rhen progressed in a really logical way in this book, without more miscommunication than was necessary, like when she refuses to ignore her doubt and anger after *the incident*. While she and Rhen share some sweet moments (which I gobbled up), I loved how her feelings for Rhen don’t get in the way of her doing what she thinks is right. For example, at one point, she finally explodes at Rhen with the tension she’s been carrying since *the incident*, and let me tell you, she does NOT hold back. And omg when she stabs you-know-who. Basically, my inner monologue whenever Harper was in a scene was just me going YASSSS GURLLLLLL on repeat.
Lia Mara is our gentle, girls-don’t-need-sharp-things-to-be-deadly sweetheart. Her journey to self-confidence is portrayed realistically, and I was rooting for her every step of the way. Unfortunately, I don’t think her quiet, brilliant strength gets enough of the spotlight in this book. I still love the message her personality brings — that it’s possible for girls to be strong while still being sensitive and compassionate — but she simply came off as weak at times and it felt like she just became defined by her relationship with Grey by the end. There’s so much potential to be explored with her character, which is one of the many reasons I need a spin-off series ASAP.
And last but definitely not least, my love Grey. Our soft but dangerous cinnamon roll prone to existential crises. He grew into himself SO much in this book, it’s ridiculous how good his character arc is. He finally realizes he doesn’t owe anything to anybody and steps into a role that he may not have wanted, but he sure as the sky is capable of. He’s not perfect — nobody in this book is — but what I love about him most is that he knows when he’s in the wrong and always takes the initiative to reach out to the other person. That’s what makes him so good at everything he puts his mind to. He’s also incredibly loyal and courageous, and so gentle when he allows himself to be. So amazing. I love him.
I do wish we’d gotten more depth to the side characters though. Like Tycho. What happened to him with the soldiers? We were literally in the middle of his backstory… and it just… ended. You can’t just leave me hanging like that?! And Jake, too. He’s a pretty important character in this book, but it feels like we don’t get to explore his motivation thoroughly enough, considering how drastic his actions are. And Noah. I don’t want to sound harsh, but he’s as two-dimensional as a piece of paper. 😅
The complex main characters make for some 10/10 relationships that I adored with all my heart. As I mentioned above, Rhen and Harper are back in all their sweet, mutually-respecting glory. Although they weren’t the star of the show for me when it came to ships, I thought the conflicting emotions between them were really well-done and resolved in a believable way. Grey and Lia Mara make up the other romantic relationship that this book focuses on, and they are SO PRECIOUS omg. They’re so SUPPORTIVE of each other, guys. Both of them have questionable experiences with taking orders from other people, and it’s so sweet how they always ask each other what they want. Seriously, I would do anything to get a boyfriend like Grey. Also, the friendship between Grey and Harper was so on point. I devoured every moment they have together and the way they deal with the complications in their relationship after the events of Book 2. And omg when Grey eventually confronts her and Harper realizes how much he’s changed I was like AHHHHHHH.
But those are all background relationships in this book. A Curse So Dark and Lonely was Rhen and Harper’s book. A Heart So Fierce and Broken was Grey and Lia Mara’s book. A Vow So Bold and Deadly is — more than anything — Rhen and Grey’s book. Their relationship was perfection, honestly, in all its tangled glory. (spoilers for Books 1 & 2) My complicated-sibling-bond-loving heart just about burst. I was just like… LIVING for this dynamic!?!?!? I am SO HAPPY that Brigid dealt with the reality of Rhen’s PTSD and opened up the discussion about how the relationship between him and Grey during the curse was never really friendship. Instead, the entire book is spent showing that their relationship is simultaneously something far from that but also far beyond that. I loved (not to mention got extremely frustrated at times haha) seeing how the two of them think about each other while separated. Basically, every interaction between the two had me hyperventilating. (end of spoilers)
A list of random Rhen & Grey moments that gave me life (spoilers for Book 3!)
- All of those flashbacks Rhen had to the beginning of the curse were AMAZING
- So much insight into his relationship with Grey
- Especially Grey teaching Rhen how to shave OMGGG THAT WAS GOLDDDD 😂
- I ADORED how their roles from Book 1 are switched as we near the climax — how Grey is now the distant one trying not to succumb to emotion, and Rhen is the one reaching out and not bothering to hide how much their relationship means to him ahhhhh
- And speaking of the climax, that entire sequence was just amazing. When the first thing Rhen does when he sees Grey is yield and ask for forgiveness ugh MY HEART 😭
- And then omg when Grey tells Rhen what to do for the first time and he’s like “Rhen, let go” and then Rhen actually lets go I — ASDGHJKLSDFASLKJ;
- When Grey just hugged Rhen after he transforms back from monster form I got so emotional 🥺
- And omg when Grey becomes crown prince and Rhen is having his existential crisis and they just get drunk together AHAHAHAHA
- And the whole last chapter when they’re having some simple brotherly bonding time aghhh 🥰
I’ve been talking about the characters a lot in this review, and I have a reason for that: It may have been just me, but I didn’t find the plot entirely surprising. There were definitely a lot of twists that happened, but nothing really caught me completely off guard. I think it’s just an inevitable side effect of writing fantasy trilogies. Curse was the first book so everything was still fresh and new, Heart took a turn nobody saw coming and so fended off middle book syndrome… but with the ending of Book 2 there were only a few directions the conclusion could go, you know? I don’t think I can really blame anyone for the not-very-unpredictable nature of this book, but yeah… that was a bit of a letdown. Also, the ending, as epic as it is, left me with a lot of questions. There are still so many things to be explained — the political state of affairs in both Syhl Shallow and Emberfall, the situation with the scravers, the minor character arcs that are left unresolved… I need answers!! I have a feeling a spin-off series is going to be announced soon. (At least, I hope so.)
To sum it up, A Vow So Bold and Deadly was a greatly satisfying — though not completely mind-blowing — finale to the Cursebreakers series. Brigid has a knack of writing really complex relationships and getting me to care about her characters. While I feel like the plot suffered a bit from last book syndrome (which is something that totally exists, don’t question it), it was still a phenomenal end to the trilogy. Highly recommend!
Lia Mara’s gentleness throughout this series is such an inspiration for me. The society we live in, similarly to Syhl Shallow, values self-assertiveness and self-expression (which are usually both excellent qualities, don’t get me wrong) but I think I personally often forget that gentleness and humility are the marks of true strength, as well as essential parts of a Spirit-filled personality. Philippians 4:5 (NIV) says: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Gentleness in our daily lives has the power to show the people around us the character of God and direct them to Him. And even if you aren’t a Christian, there’s no harm in being more thoughtful, right?
That’s all for today, everyone!! I hope you’re all doing well and your March is off to a fine start ❤️ I’m hoping to get my wrap-up for January and February up soon, but don’t be surprised if I disappear again 🙈 What can I say, school is really testing my mental health right now… I just need to get through this week safely and then things will (hopefully) calm down a bit. (That’s a lot of hoping I did in that paragraph.)
But anyway!! You should all talk to me! What did you think of my review? Have you read A Vow So Bold and Deadly or any of the Cursebreakers books? Are you planning to? I’d love to chat with you in the comments below!!
Happy reading, everyone! 💗