Book Review

A Vow So Bold And Deadly

A Vow So Bold and Deadly

  • Author: Brigid Kemmerer
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: January 26, 2021
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
  • Series: Cursebreakers #3

CONTENT WARNING: mention of cancer, mention of death of a parent, gore, violence, death, torture, mention of domestic violence, mention of infidelity, blood, animal death

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Face your fears.

Fight the battle.

Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone — even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.

Fight the battle.

Save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

I really struggled a lot with this book. Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog gets a special shout out for making me laugh and giving me someplace to vent, as well as being an amazing buddy read partner.

There seems to be this tragic pitfall in some YA books where toxic relationships are romanticized. And as much as I want to say that this series doesn’t fall into that trap, it clearly does. Rhen has an awful tendency to try and control various aspects of the lives of people around him (see: controlling where/when Harper goes, what Grey was able to do, and withholding the truth from the people around him “for their best interest”). But when someone doesn’t tell him the truth immediately, he flips out and throws tantrums like a toddler. Over the course of the series, his character arc gave me whiplash. In book 1, he was the villain, but it was easy to explain his actions as a result of the curse. In book 2, he was freed from the curse, and was still a villain without any excuse other than the fact that this is who he is. But in book 3, it felt like the author was trying so damn hard to redeem him, and I just wasn’t having it. He was so far beyond redemption in my opinion, and for a lot of the story, he continued to engage in the behaviors that made him a villain. A person isn’t going to become a hero without a massive turnaround, and this book just wasn’t it. It kind of felt like reading ACOTAR where SJM would have tried redeeming Tamlin at the end.

“I kept the truth from Harper because I wanted to keep her safe. I did not want her to recklessly risk her life on my behalf. She keeps the truth from me because she does not think I can handle it.”

Harper just seemed stuck to me. Part of what I loved about her was her spunky nature and the way that she never held back what she thought. Over the course of this book and staying with Rhen, it felt like she was fading away. She only spoke up one time, and then was shocked about it. I got that she was stuck between a guy that she loved (even if it wasn’t a healthy relationship at all), and a guy who used to be her friend, that her brother sided with. But in her quest to find peace, it seemed like she was giving up on who she used to be as well.

On the other side, in Syhl Shallow, Grey and Lia Mara are dealing with a completely different dynamic. Lia Mara is learning how to step out of the shadow of her mother and sister, and become her own person. She’s also trying to completely change how her country is ruled. Rather than relying on a foundation of fear and brutality, she’s trying to develop a foundation based on something true to her values. However, this isn’t exactly going over big. Especially not with Grey by her side, with his magical abilities that are a source of fear in her country.

“‘I think it will not be easy to have power shift from a woman like Karis Luran, who held her throne by violence and fear, to a woman like Lia Mara, who seems to value compassion and empathy.’”

And Grey is trying to further refine his own powers while learning how to lead an army of people who fear and distrust him. All at the same time as he is developing the sweetest relationship with Lia Mara. I loved seeing how their relationship was so radically different from that of Rhen and Harper, since it was built on mutual trust, honesty, and focused on building each other up. This book really focused on the sensitive side of Grey, which we generally don’t get to see as much. 

The ending felt rushed. There were loose ends all over the place, and I ended up with more questions that I expect to have at the end of a series. It basically felt like there should still be another book forthcoming. While I enjoyed reading it, the chapters with Rhen felt as though they dragged. He wasn’t a character that I found intriguing or cared about anymore, and seeing Harper try to justify Rhen’s actions by blaming Grey was the final straw for me. This would have definitely been rated lower if not for Grey and Lia Mara, who absolutely carried this entire book. I’m still partial to Tycho, and I really enjoyed Noah and Jake even more that usual in this story. But Grey has always been the star of this series in my eyes. 

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 10

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