Cursed Book Review
We all know the prophecy: Whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the One True King.
But what if the sword chose a Queen?
"Why shouldn't a woman sit on the throne?"
Thomas Wheeler explores this question in Cursed, the first installment in his dark, exciting retelling of the stories of King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake, which features dark imagery and is centered around a female protagonist.
I hadn't heard about this book until after I saw the trailer for the Netflix adaptation, and as we all know TV can often butcher a story, I HAD to read the book first. Now I'm dying to binge-watch the show!
Genre: YA Fantasy; Fairytale Retelling
Category: Epic read
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Rating: 5/5 Stars
Pairing: Red wine + Dark chocolate lava cake
Want to enhance your reading experience? Check out the soundtrack on Spotify!
Nimue has a connection to dark magic, making her an outcast in her Druid village. For years she's looked forward to the day she could leave, to sailing where the sea meets the sky. She never imagined she'd be leaving like this—charged with delivering the Sword of Power to the legendary Merlin, with all hope of her people's survival depending on it.
Along the way, Nimue allies with Arthur, a young mercenary seeking honor, and refugee Fey Folk from all corners of the land. With Red Paladins and the Pendragon army closing in, tension between Fey factions, and a red-hot need for revenge, Nimue soon has no choice but to fight . . . and she finds she enjoys it.
Fans of Arthurian lore or fantasy in general will appreciate this reimagining. What really makes this book stand out is that it's one even men who don't normally read fairytales or books featuring female protagonists will enjoy.
Not really! While there is romance in the story, it takes a backseat to Nimue's quest and the building war. It is present, but Wheeler doesn't dwell on it. Instead, he paints vivid settings and describes the sights and sounds of war.
Nimue stepped forward, spun the heavy sword in a high arcing circle, ignoring the fire in her shoulder, and— chuk —sent the Paladin's head soaring through the air . . . Nimue was dizzy, almost giddy, and somewhere deep down, scared to death.
The vivid, dark imagery provided by Wheeler's storytelling and Frank Miller's iconic illustration had me hooked from page one, and the constant conflict made for an exciting story, but I did not feel incredibly invested in the characters—at least not until about 1/2 – 2/3 through the story.
This could be due to the fact that there are multiple characters whose points of view the reader cycles through, including Nimue, Arthur, Merlin, King Uther, Morgan, and more. While this format gives each character only so much “screen time," it allows the reader to be almost omniscient, watching the moves of big players all across the board, wondering whose plots might be foiled or foil another’s. I feel like this is part of what makes the plot exciting; you’re not stuck in one character’s head.
Nimue’s cause is not the only conflict in the land, which provides an array of villains—the Church and their Red Paladins, deadly factions of holy assassins, Viking tribes, and murder/poison-happy royals. With bad guys lurking everywhere, it's hard to decide who you hate more, as everyone has their own motives and methods.
With so many against her, Nimue is bound to be tripped up here and there. I appreciate that she is often aware of her mistakes, usually immediately upon making them. Whether it's how she handles her enemies, conflict among the Fey Folk, or her budding romance with Arthur, she always realizes where she could have done better and makes note of it. She even becomes wary of herself—both her power and her hunger for blood.
How am I to know if my thoughts are mine? Such a thought had never occurred to her.
Nimue is mindful, brave, and constantly ready to sacrifice herself and be in the thick of the danger rather than allow others to fall for her—she makes for a great One True Queen.
"We're not running, not hiding, not abandoning our own kind!"
Did you read the book or try the Netflix series first? No shame either way! Drop your thoughts about one or both in the comments below, or tag us on Twitter @bookish_witches if you've reviewed either one!