A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Statecraft, and how to rule wisely and justly, are urgent issues for a number of characters, and the nuanced treatment of complex issues is thought-provoking, possibly launching interesting conversations in which there are no easy answers. Bridging and understanding cultural differences is an ongoing theme as two kingdoms prepare for, or try to avert, war.
Strong messages of courage, kindness, building trust, recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses, and finding ways to work with others. Also being able to figure out what went wrong and why so you don't do it again, as well as taking your responsibility to others seriously and doing right by them.
Positive Role Models
Harper is brave, tenacious, determined as she battles physical challenges due to cerebral palsy and emotional challenges of loyalty to Rhen. Lia Mara rules her kingdom with kindness, which some take for weakness. Grey knows the skills that make him a near-invincible guardian might not be what he would need as king. Rhen has lots of interpersonal skills and diplomacy but lacks Grey's military expertise, tends to fall into despair as he tries to do right by his kingdom and his beloved. Harper's brother, Jake, a soldier, and Noah, a doctor, are a couple who are apart for much of the story and missing each other. Both weigh in with wise advice and valuable skills when they're most needed. Pitted against all of them are a vicious enchantress, palace spies, assassins, and a lot of people who are merely weak but do great harm in the process.
Violence & Scariness
Assassins, would-be assassins; queens take power by killing the previous queen. People believed to have perished horribly remain unharmed, but, as in previous volumes, carnage and body count are high. Limbs, other body parts are lost to magic, monsters, weaponry. Characters are often near death from injuries. Villain kills and tortures with glee, gets her victims to do her bidding by threatening their loved ones. Hacking, stabbing, slashing. Recollections of a horrific beating. Killing the villain is a key goal of the protagonists. Protagonists grapple with issues of statecraft, and when, if ever, it's OK to impose your will by killing and maiming vs. a peaceful approach. A prisoner fears she'll be raped, but (perhaps, she thinks, because half of them are women) the soldiers leave her alone.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In Books 1 and 2, romantic and sexual tension was building for the two couples, with a number of obstacles and interrupted moments; in Book 3, tension continues. When each couple finally gets their moment, after some intense kissing and hands inside clothing, the sex occurs in private, and in one case soon results in pregnancy. The whole issue is more than a little fraught. As Harper says of Rhen and herself, "We've slept beside each other dozens of times, but we've never actually slept together for a hundred different reasons -- one being that the last woman he had sex with cursed him for an eternity. He never specifically said as much, but if we had to rank reasons, I'd bet good money that it would find a spot among his top five."
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Occasional "pissed," "crap," "don't be a d--k."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Wine, other alcoholic drinks are served lavishly at banquets and other events, also part of daily life. Characters bond over drinking and playing cards or dice, in one case getting falling-down drunk because they have no tolerance. A character returns to a tavern he frequented in an earlier installment. A character is drowning his sorrows to avoid his problems; his loved one takes the booze away, tells him to do better.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Vow So Bold and Deadly brings Brigid Kemmerer's Cursebreaker series to a thrilling, satisfying, heart-filled conclusion. Beginning in Book 1 with a novel take on Beauty and the Beast, the story's characters have grappled with (sometimes star-crossed) love, political intrigue, and deep questions of statecraft and cultural exchange. At stake is the throne of one kingdom, which is under attack by the neighboring kingdom. The crown prince has been freed from his curse but remains in the power of the enchantress who cursed him because he rejected her after a night of sex and is now killing, torturing, and threatening his subjects and loved ones. All main characters grapple with issues of diplomacy, the challenges of ruling justly, and figuring out solutions to conflicts that often exist for good, compelling reasons. Cultural differences are a strong theme. Central character Harper deals with some physical challenges as a result of cerebral palsy -- but just practices her swordplay all the harder. Two couples have sex in private after intense kissing and hands under clothing. A gay couple has a strong, tested relationship, and each man provides support and life lessons to the protagonists. Adult characters drink, sometimes to excess, and play dice and cards. As in previous books, violence (magical and otherwise) includes stabbing, hacking, slashing, poisoning attempts, maiming, and killing, both in battle and by treachery. Language includes occasional uses of "pissed," "crap," and "don't be a d--k." Along the way, there's a lot of shared wisdom, kindness, and humor.
Is It Any Good?
Political, ethical, and romantic conflicts abound in Brigid Kemmerer's thrilling tour de force that brings her trilogy of love, magic, hard-won wisdom, and plentiful gore to a satisfying conclusion. As Harper struggles to free Rhen once and for all from the enchantress's clutches, Grey falls in love with the queen of Syhl Shallow, and war looms between the two kingdoms; there's more than enough misunderstanding and long-held grievances for mutually assured destruction. Trying to avert this are four strong protagonists/narrators, each bringing a fundamentally different viewpoint and experience and struggling to do the right thing in impossibly difficult situations. They've come a long way in the course of the Cursebreaker series, making A Vow So Bold and Deadly a compelling, thought-provoking read.
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