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Book Review: Cursed by Marissa Meyer

Book Review: Cursed by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer’s Gilded was an enchanting YA reimagining of the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, complete with romance, adventure, ghostly escapades and folkloric stories within stories. The sequel, Cursed, is a continuation of everything that made the first book such a unique and atmospheric fantasy read, with the added dark delight of more time spent with the evil Erlking. His agenda might be even more vengeful than first anticipated, but if there’s anyone capable of thwarting his wicked plans it’s the story’s brave protagonist Serilda and the cursed boy she fell in love with – a boy with a talent for spinning straw into gold.

Cursed picks up where Gilded left off, with the gifted storyteller Serilda cursed and fated to marry the Erlking, who’s intent on using Serilda to not only bring back his lost love, but to inflict revenge on the seven gods who trapped the Dark Ones behind the veil. If the Erlking succeeds, it will alter the mortal realm forever. But Serilda and Gild, whose spirits are tethered to the haunted castle, have no intention of allowing him to destroy any more innocent lives. As the time for breaking their curses ticks down, Serilda and Gild must find a way to beat the Erlking once and for all.

“You have not dreamed of being a summer bride?

She snorted. “I’m not a summer bride. I’m a summer sacrifice.”

The Erlking laughed. It was a rare sound, and one that always gave Serilda a twinge of satisfaction, even though she didn’t want it to.

The sad part was, she meant it.

This was not to be a wedding. This was to be a ritual sacrifice, and she was the lamb.”

Marissa Meyer can spin a captivating fairytale as well as Gild can spin gold, and whilst Cursed meanders away from the original Rumpelstiltskin story, that’s actually one of the book’s strengths. It doesn’t try to rehash what we know of the fabled character. Instead, Meyer creates a world that feels simultaneously fresh and frightening; a Sleepy Hollow-like haunted landscape where ghostly figures plague the world and evil threatens to triumph over good. Classic fairytale antagonists aren’t always the most complex or nuanced of characters, but the Erlking never feels one-note. Forcing Serilda into close proximity with him allows the story to explore what drives his wicked deeds, as well as shining a light on his curious origins. He’s a constantly terrifying presence but in this sequel he’s oddly endearing too – as much as a ghoulish, murderous demon king can ever be endearing…

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Whilst the pacing issues that plagued the first book do continue, the lulls aren’t quite so noticeable this time around, and that’s because Meyer’s sequel feels more layered than the book that came before. Shifting the focus to the Erlking and the gods who separated him from his beloved Huntress adds another dimension to the tale. The stakes are higher than ever but Serilda is such a clever, resourceful and kind-hearted character – you can’t help but root for her. There aren’t as many scenes between her and Gild as you’d expect, given their romance is key to the story, but any moments alone that they share are always funny, sweet and tinged with the bittersweet knowledge that they both have so much to lose if the Erlking wins.

If you’re seeking a richly told and imaginative retelling that breathes new life into an old tale, this duology more than delivers. It’s dark and macabre in all the best ways, with a cast of curious characters and strange creatures. And for all you cover judgers, this one’s a contender for the year’s best, bringing all the haunting fairytale vibes you could possibly want.


Cursed was published by Faber & Faber on 8 November 2022

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