A Vow So Bold and Deadly: Cursebreaker, Book 3

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
A Vow So Bold and Deadly: Cursebreaker, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Stellar conclusion to fantasy tale of magic, gore, love.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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

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.

Sex

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."

Language

Occasional "pissed," "crap," "don't be a d--k."

Consumerism
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.

What 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 developed intriguing, nuanced characters grappling with (sometimes star-crossed) love, political intrigue, and deep questions of statecraft and cultural exchange. At stake is the throne of one kingdom, whose crown prince faces the newly revealed elder brother, his lifelong friend and, it turns out, the rightful heir -- and which is also under attack by the neighboring kingdom. The prince, moreover, has been freed from his curse in Book 1, but remains in the power of the enchantress who cursed him (because he rejected her after a night of sex), and who is now killing, torturing, and threatening his subjects and loved ones. Their love interests -- Harper, snatched to the kingdom of Emberfall from the streets of Washington, D.C., in Book 1, and Lia Mara, studious, kindhearted, and struggling to deal with the kingdom her late, murderous mother ruled by terror -- face many challenges of their own and constantly struggle to do the right thing when all the options are bad. All four grapple with issues of diplomacy, statecraft, the challenges of ruling justly, and how to figure out solutions to conflicts that often exist for good, compelling reasons. Cultural differences (mostly set in a fantasy kingdom), as both enrichment and potential sources of conflict, are a strong theme. Protagonist Harper deals with some physical challenges as a result of cerebral palsy -- and just practices her swordplay harder. Two heterosexual 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, 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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byAnnie201 March 25, 2021

More sexual romance then expected (14?+

Overall, the book was really good and I was happy to see the couples finally get their moment. But, the romance was a lot more intimate then I wanted and I felt... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bysamarium14 July 5, 2021

a fantasy must read

This book was wonderful. The way the author wrote each of the characters from their perspective was amazing.

What's the story?

There's nothing but trouble as A VOW SO BOLD AND DEADLY opens: Rhen, heir apparent to the Emberfall throne, has been freed from a curse by "Princess" Harper, late of Washington, D.C., who loves him. But there's tension between them following the events of Book 2, where she helped their friend and Rhen's half-brother, Grey, escape his murderous wrath. Now ensconced in the neighboring kingdom of Syhl Shallow, Grey reluctantly prepares to lead the armies of queen Lia Mara against Rhen -- Grey being the actual heir to the throne. Amid the resulting unrest, Harper is trying to mend things with Rhen, who, unbeknownst to her, is still in the power of the enchantress Lilith, who threatens to kill Harper or send her away forever if Rhen doesn't do Lilith's bidding. As the story unfolds, told in chapters narrated by each of the four protagonists, each of them wants nothing but the best for their loved ones and for their people -- but it's complicated.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the Cursebreaker series started out as a Beauty and the Beast update and, by A Vow So Bold and Deadly, developed into something else entirely. If you were going to adapt a fairy tale, which one would you choose? Where might you have the story go?

  • Why are stories of battling brothers so popular? What others have you read? Which are your favorites? What about that dynamic makes it rich for storytelling?  

  • Solving problems and mediating disputes is difficult -- especially when there's right and wrong on all sides. Do you know anyone who's really good at dealing with these situations before they get worse? What do they do?

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