About the Book:
Title: A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Cursebreakers #3
Page Length: 416
Publication Date: Jan. 26,2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Synopsis: 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 magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.
As two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.
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NOTE: This review contains spoilers!!
I have so many mixed feelings about this book. I loved the first two books, especially A Heart So Fierce and Broken, which inspired a new series on my blog called Loving the Lines, and there are many elements of this story that I enjoyed. I love the author’s writing style and the beautiful and descriptive language. I also loved that the story was told from all four main characters’ points of view. This is very much a character-driven story, and I thought it was fascinating to see the story from Harper, Rhen, Lia Mara, and Grey’s perspectives. Kemmerer is clearly a master storyteller, and I was completely engrossed throughout the story. The world and characters are so well-layered, dynamic, and vivid, and the story is really well-paced.
Unfortunately, some of the character arcs were a bit of a letdown for me. I knew Rhen would have to redeem himself, especially after the vile thing he did in AHSFAB, and I don’t think I ever really forgave him for his actions. The violence of what he did to his most loyal and trusted friend was so wrong (not to mention he did the same thing to a kid!!!), and he just didn’t redeem himself in my eyes. He’s headed there, but he’s not quite there yet.
Sometimes we make such poor choices that the good ones pale in comparison.
Rhen made a lot of excuses, and I understand his reasoning. However, he often makes excuses for his behavior, and though he shows regret, it isn’t wholly convincing. As much as he says he wants what is best for his people, he often struggles to do so. I do like that Rhen is more reflective in this book, and he definitely has many regrets.
I think there are definite messages about forgiveness, as well as the ramifications of making terrible choices, even if it is to protect others. Rhen not only splintered his closest relationships, but he also broke a part of himself, and though most of his actions are understandable, they aren’t entirely forgivable.
The one thing that did redeem Rhen in my eyes was his relationship with Harper. (Love her!!) It’s pretty clear that much of what he does is to protect her, even though what he does wounds her deeply. I like that Rhen and Harper had opportunities to talk about and work through their feelings. It is a testament to their love and their deep feelings for each other that they could face their trials and tribulations, their successes and failures together, and I enjoyed this aspect of the story.
We were both wrong and both right at the same time, and the realization of that is what finally makes the anger ease and shift and become a bit more bearable.
Harper is as fantastic as usual. She is such a complex character with so many contradictory feelings and relationships, and she struggles with these things throughout the story. Loyal, stubborn, and proud, Harper loves fiercely and never gives up on those she cares about. I think she is one of the strongest characters in the book and definitely one of the most relatable.
I still love Grey, and he is by far my favorite character in the story. His steadfastness, loyalty, and bravery are as prevalent in this book as they were in the first two, and I enjoyed his character arc. He’s grown and changed and proven that he is destined to be a great and honorable leader. I love how confident he becomes and how he shows grace and courage under the most dangerous of circumstances. I think he is the most well-layered character of all the characters.
The love story between Grey and Lia Mara is also wonderful, and I love how they are growing together, working together, and depending on each other. Lia Mara brings Grey a sense of belonging, and his more tender side is reserved for her. I love their tender moments, which often stand in stark contrast to the upheaval and danger that surrounds them. However, I do think Lia Mara depends on Grey a bit too much, and I wanted to see her stand on her own two capable feet a bit more without relying on others for support and assurance.
He takes my hand and kisses my fingertips. “You know all the ways to make me yield.”
Lia Mara’s character, overall, was another disappointment for me. Her character is so different from the rest, and she had so much potential to invoke change, but…didn’t really? Many people in the story thought she was too kind, too just, too forgiving, and I agree to a degree. I mean, I know she wants to be a peaceful and benevolent leader, and she wants to show her people that there is a way to rule without cruelty and violence. However, there’s a difference between benevolence and passivity, and I didn’t think Lia Mara ever figured that out. You can be kind and firm. You can be forgiving and expecting. Lia Mara had too many people around her that did not fully accept her as their leader, and she didn’t do much to change that. I think this could prove disastrous in the long run.
How can you ask them to fight for you when you won’t fight for yourself?
Though she was strong in her own right, Lia Mara’s actions were never enough to command respect. She is a new leader, and this might come in time, but how can she expect people to stand behind her when they haven’t seen her potential and she has yet to see her own worth? I think this was an interesting and powerful point in the story and something that Lia Mara has yet to reconcile. Though I think she might eventually become a revered leader, especially with Grey by her side, it hasn’t fully happened yet. This leads to some unresolved plot points that totally frustrated me.
The more I think about this part of Lia Mara’s story, the more I think the author was trying to make a point about the different ways of ruling and different people’s perceptions of strength. Lia Mara is not weak. She’s just a different type of leader than the others we’ve come to know in the the story. She isn’t ruthless or cunning or malicious. She’s fair and thoughtful and generous. She cares. I think if the story continued we would see more of Lia Mara’s benevolence and how that helps heal her people. Instead, because of where the story ends, we only see glimpses of this hopeful future.
The ending had a happy conclusion, but I felt like several of the characters didn’t receive the attention and resolutions needed to make this a fulfilling and satisfying ending. I wanted to knowm ore about some of these beloved characters and how thier lives were affected by the events that happened in the book! I also wanted to know more about some of the newer characters and feel like there might be a potential for a continuation or spinoff here.
Some of the minor plots weren’t explained or concluded either, which disappointed me. What are Grey and Lia Mara going home to, what with the rebellious anti-magic factions threatening their kingdom? What will happen to Emberfall now that everything has changed? How will they resolve the tensions in Emberfall that still seem to permeate the land? I wish these questions were answered! It would have made for a more satisfactory conclusion. There are many ways Kemmerer could continue the series, and I think she left enough open-ended that other characters, sub-plots, and even the futures of our four main characters could be explored further.
Is this a worthwhile read? Yes. I enjoyed the series, even though I was disappointed by some aspects of this book.
Does it feel like the last book in the series? No. There are so many opportunities for expansion, and I hope Kemmerer revisits this world and its people soon!
Overall, this is a good YA fantasy series with rich world-building, compelling characters, and an immersive plot. There are a few twists and unexpected events that made for an exciting read, and the good definitely outweighs the bad. I just felt like I wanted… a bit more.
It’s one thing to be a ruler wishing for peace, and entirely another to be a subject wishing for vengeance.
I didn’t realize how important that feeling of belonging had grown until it was gone.
“Don’t yield to me either,” I say, and I have to swallow past the sudden emotion in my throat. “Yield to yourself. Yield to forgiveness. Yield to happiness. Yield to this moment. It’s not her. It’s yours. It’s mine. It’s ours.Harper
You are stronger than your fear.
I forget, so often, the the most powerful moments in my life rarely end up being about my kingdom, or about a war, or about even my subjects. I forget that the world can narrow down to two people, to a moment of vulnerability and trust. To a moment of love that seems to outshine the rest.
This is definitely not a standalone novel, so I would definitely recommend reading the first two books in the series before reading this one.