Book Review: By Wingéd Chair

By Wingéd Chair by Kendra Merritt

I’m a huge supporter of my local library, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of a free trial of Kindle Unlimited when The Big River throws one my way. This book was part of my mad binge-reading during that trial.

Description

Seventeen-year-old Merry has one goal—become a licensed mage—but her tendency to mouth off to anyone who underestimates her because of her wheelchair hasn’t made her boarding school mistresses more willing to write her the necessary letter of recommendation. Instead of heading to the University, she takes the train home to face her father—until a group of corrupt peacemakers and their shape-shifting allies attack. As the daughter of Woodshire’s premier expert in the memory-stealing creatures, she can defend herself. The outlaw mage who “comes to her rescue,” however, drags her into a resistance movement she didn’t know lay in her own backyard. When the creatures decide to take the memories of those she cares about most, she must decide whether returning their memories is worth giving up her chance to earn respect as a mage.

Character

Merry represents a fantastic blend of strength and insecurity. At the outset, she hides her emotional pain behind her sharp tongue and masked expression, but as her confidence grows, she displays her friendly side more often. She never lets anything hold her back, though the author doesn’t shy away from portraying the challenges she faces as a paraplegic. Likewise, the other characters have their own struggles and motivations, especially the leading male, rounding out the cast of misfit outlaws.

Toward the end, the author reveals the villains’ true motivations, which make them seem both more human and more realistic. However, these details were added so quickly, they feel like an afterthought. That said, the process by which the creatures become “good” and “bad” fascinated me. I love the idea that all their small decisions culminate in their final nature.

Plot

The plot, a retelling of Robin Hood, follows Merry as she befriends the outlaws and helps them work against the tyrannical duke and the creatures he is using to steal memories from the populace. The story progresses at a solid pace, with a balance between action and character development. There weren’t any surprising twists, but I enjoyed the journey.

Writing Style

Merritt writes with a good balance between description and action. She evokes the characters’ emotions without wallowing for too long. I felt Merry was a little blind and self-absorbed, but at her age, I was equally introspective. The love-story subplot was appropriate for a young adult audience. I found it refreshing compared to the hypersexualized stories that have flooded the genre in recent years.

Miscellaneous

The author’s Christian allegory was very well done. She successfully wove religious themes into the fantasy world, highlighting the relevance to each character’s development. Though evident immediately, the Christian themes didn’t come across as preachy, and weren’t as obvious as, say, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This book may hold special appeal to Christians, but readers of any belief system—or lack thereof—could enjoy it.

Conclusion

One part Robin Hood, one part Christian allegory, By Wingéd Chair is a delightful fairytale which portrays resilience in the face of suffering. Merry’s personal journey encourages readers to draw strength from their weaknesses, and the well-rounded cast of outlaws provides ample support for the broader theme. I enjoyed this story, and I look forward to reading more.

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By Winged Chair

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Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

In this retelling of The Beaty & the Beast, tough-but-vulnerable Harper and arrogant-but-defeated Rhen must join forces to save the kingdom—and perhaps fall in love.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kremmerer

I almost didn’t read this because I was looking for a different book, but I’m glad I did.

Book Description

Harper is determined to help her brother earn money to pay off their mother’s cancer debts, but Jake always underestimates her because of her Cerebral Palsy. She’s relegated to lookout duty, but when she spots someone being kidnapped, she can’t help intervening. She doesn’t realize this kidnapper is heading to another world until he accidentally takes her instead.

Thrust into a fairytale land full of magic and suffering, Harper meets Prince Rhen and learns of his curse. Upon the season’s end, he transforms into a terrifying monster and attacks his own people. After his rampage, time resets, and he must relive his eighteenth year again—until a woman falls in love with him.

Apparently, that woman is supposed to be Harper.

She doubts she could fall for someone so arrogant, but when a neighboring kingdom sends an army over the mountains, Rhen and Harper have bigger things to worry about than breaking a curse.

Characters

Though the book falls into the young adult category, readers of any age can relate to Harper’s desire to prove herself. She is simultaneously tough and vulnerable, determined and doubt-riddled, assured and confused. In other words, she’s human.

Having Cerebral Palsy causes Harper to walk with a limp, but I love that this book isn’t about Harper’s disability. CP is a part of her, but it doesn’t define her character, and rather than focus on Harper fighting discrimination as so many books featuring characters with disabilities do, Kremmerer focuses the story on everything Harper can do, and how she wins the respect of everyone who meets her.

The other characters are similarly well rounded, including the leading man, Rhen. Kremmerer depicts her characters not as “good guys” and “bad guys,” but as deeply flawed humans doing the best they can. Each character harbors regrets about past decisions and agonizes over future ones. Readers may not agree with those decisions, but we can understand them.

Plot

The plot follows a fun twist on the Beauty & the Beast. Rather than focusing on the love story, the invading army gives Rhen and Harper a common goal. Kremmerer does an excellent job escalating both the personal and societal stakes over the course of the plot, forcing the characters to make impossible decisions.

Writing Style

Kremmerer’s prose is just the right mix of description and action. It reads smoothly, with few stylistic obstacles to prevent readers from immersing themselves in the world. She lingers over romantic scenes while driving up the pace during climactic ones, excellent pacing.

Miscellaneous

I wish this were a standalone novel instead of a series. The author needed to leave some loose ends to draw readers forward, but I don’t like where the tale is headed. I’d rather pretend those loose ends were tied up and enjoy the happily ever after in my head.

That said, I feel obligated to admit that I have already downloaded the sequel from the library’s e-book database.

Conclusion

In this refreshing and beautiful retelling of The Beaty & the Beast, tough-but-vulnerable Harper and arrogant-but-defeated Rhen must join forces to save the kingdom—and perhaps fall in love. With deeply human characters and a thrilling plot full of political intrigue and high stakes, A Curse So Dark and Lonely is sure to please even fair-weather fans of fairy tales. I loved this book so much I read it in a weekend. Highly recommend.


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A Curse So Dark and Lonely

You may also like:

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I haven’t written a review on this, but with a nerdy princess and lots of magic/action/romance… let’s just say I loved it. Trust Me.


*The above links are Amazon Associate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you purchase through them. All opinions are my own.