A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Fantasy meant to entertain. Could inspire readers to seek out classic versions of King Arthur tale and compare with this reimagined one.
When you have safety and access to resources, aid those in need of help and protection. We don't always get to choose our circumstances, but we must still try to make good choices. Women can be strong, capable leaders. That said, characters must often choose among bad options and engage in extreme violence, so positive messages tend to be marred by the dark and ominous themes.
Positive Role Models
Nimue is a worthy role model in some respects: She's fierce, determined, selfless at times, but also driven by dark forces, including violent revenge. Morgan, Arthur, and Merlin all have admirable moments, as well, though mostly they feel one-dimensional. The Fey Folk, communities that practice magic and include human-animal creatures (some have tusks or deer antlers), are persecuted and could presumably be a symbol for differences that often divide the real world like skin color or religion. All characters presumed White.
Violence & Scariness
Gratuitous violence and gore. Red Paladins, a religious order, burn and stab Fey people, including children; it's sometimes described in great detail. Several scenes of close combat with swords mean blood-soaked stabbings, severed appendages, bodies, heads. Torture is described briefly. Threat of torture (including of a child) is present in other places.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One passionate kiss between main characters. In another scene, these characters bathe together, naked, in a hot spring.
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Sparse use of "s--t," "ass," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters occasionally drink wine but not to excess.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Cursed is a young adult novel by screenwriter Thomas Wheeler and illustrated by comic artist Frank Miller that's been adapted for a 2020 Netflix series set to premiere in 2020. A loose take on the Arthurian legends, this story centers on Nimue, a young woman from a Druid village, whose dying mother entrusts the Sword of Power to her for transport to Merlin. On her journey, she becomes the reluctant leader of the Fey Folk, humans and creatures who can practice magic and are being persecuted by a religious order. Miller's stylized illustrations -- 30 black and white and 8 full color -- punctuate the story. While there are positive messages about the responsibility to help those in need and about women as capable leaders, there's a great deal of violence (torture, bloody sword killings by villains and main characters) and related darker themes about hatred and its consequences. Nimue and supporting characters are admirable and selfless at times, but they're also sometimes driven by dark motives like fear and revenge. There's one passionate kiss and a brief scene that includes nudity while bathing. Language is similarly tame, with only a few uses of "s--t" and "ass."
Is It Any Good?
With an exciting author-illustrator team, this highly anticipated book has some bright spots but fails to live up to the hype. The writing in Cursed is smooth and the action is well paced, so it's a decently entertaining read. An Arthurian retelling with a female lead is a fresh take that appeals to a wide audience. Nimue is the best developed character, but the Sword of Power has a dark influence on her, and it seems many of her choices are not hers alone. Other characters mostly fail to come alive on the page. Vaguely medieval but poorly defined world-building feels incomplete. Gaps in the story and perspective shifts between characters can feel disorienting. The romance between Arthur and Nimue lacks true chemistry. Excessive violence may turn off more sensitive readers.
The inclusion of illustrations in a young adult novel makes for a richer reading experience, but several of Miller's black-and-white illustrations are a challenge to decipher. The full-color art is striking, but some cause confusion. Nimue looks black in one, with curly hair, brown eyes, and dark skin, but is drawn with straight, light hair and skin in others. Critiques aside, readers will be pulled along in the story, and may genuinely enjoy this illustrated, female-led Arthurian reimagining.
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