{Review} BRUTAL CURSE by Casey L. Bond

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   ONCE UPON A TIME, in a land far away, there lived a young fae princess. The child was raised in opulence. From birth, she was a fearsome member of her parents' court; a power to be reckoned with,wearing glittering gowns, shoes encrusted with diamonds and rubies, and a smile that sparked intrigue and fear in the bellies of her people.

   When the King and Queen bothered with her at all, it was only on the rarest of occassions that they dared utter the word no. 

   She grew more beautiful with each passing year. While most knew her for her striking appearance, even more came to know her for her cruelty. For she was envious of what others had that she did not possess. 

   The princess had every material thing her heart had ever desired, but there were things, she learned, that could not be bought with emeralds and gold. Things much more precious. Things like love.

(Page 7, US e-book edition)

"Growing up, my brother had often reminded me that not all poisions taste bitter. Queen Coeur was a bitter person, one that everyone knew was deadly, which must be avoided at all costs. 
I had to be the sweet poison no one expected or could even detect, especially her."

The best way to explain BRUTAL CURSE by Casey L. Bond is that it has loose refrains of Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast running through its heart, with a villain who could take on Amarantha in her lair Under the Mountain in A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas. If those comps don't have you instantly intrigued for something fresh and page-turning (I seriously read this in one sitting!), here's a little more about the book and my thoughts. But this was my first Casey L. Bond book, and since she has other twisted retellings as well, I very much hope it won't be the last!

The novel switches between perspectives of our two protagonists: Carden and Arabella. 

Prince Carden is a long way from home. He's given up his future crown and escaped his father, the king he could never please. He's looking for work and follows a trickster fae who leads him to Queen Coeur's estate. Once he steps foot on her grounds, he is arrested for trespassing and told he must participate in a deadly game, where he'll either win and leave with his life, or lose and be the next human Coeur decapiitates. To make things interesting, Coeur looks into his mind, sees his recent encounter with Arabella, who is unknowingly his heartmate, and decides to raise the stakes... 

Arabella takes the opportunity to leave home and her vicious father when her brother comes home for a short trip. Her brother doesn't want  her along, not realizing how bad she has it at home. She follows along anyway, and when spying on her brother exchanging money and goods with a mysterious man in a tavern, bumps into a boy looking for the same man. Their eyes meet and there's the flash of interest, of something that could be someday, and then each goes their own way. When Arabella loses her brother in the woods, she sets up snares to catch wildlife, desperate for food, and chases a rabbit that gets loose, never realizing he's a trickster fae in disguise until she is brought to Queen Coeur's palace and encounters the mysterious lad from the woods again, before being told that she's about to embark on the game of her life...

There are a lot of intriguing concepts curling the world together and creating a new blend. I really love the aspects at play from classic tales. Carden calls Coeur a beast, and so he becomes one on and off throughout the game, which changes his demeanor and the way he interacts with Arabella. There are invisible servants who are cursed themselves, another nod to Beauty and the Beast. Coeur herself is a queen who seems to have stepped out of Alice in Wonderland and her favorite means of punishment is decapitation. The trickster fae that leads both Carden and Arabella to Coeur's palace is, at one point, disguised as a rabbit -- a very late rabbit -- and the rabbit is his insignia. Ah, there is so much more as well, but I want to save some discoveries for you to discover and savor on your own!

BRUTAL CURSE is a fantasy that has romantic elements, but isn't focused on the romance. As readers, we're always saying, "They're fighting for their LIVES. Why are they more interested in making out!?" Casey seems to have taken that critique and made sure where, despite being heartmates, this is a world where survival is key. Plus, these two know nothing about one another and met by chance. They have to get to know one another. They need to learn to trust one another. They need to work together. They need a foundation to win the game before they can have a foundation for anything else. So if you're looking for a novel full of romance and swoon, this one isn't for you, but if you want one that's action-packed and actually focused on that action, you are in exactly the right place!

I enjoyed reading BRUTAL CURSE and would read another book from Casey. The ending was a little rushed and I went back and read the last chapter or two a second time to pick up on everything, but I still enjoyed the story I sat down with and would pick up another the next time I wanted a new take on a traditional tale!


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: G ( Arabella and Carden are heartmates, but too busy trying not to die to be making out at every twist and turn when they could be working together to survive )
Language: G ( Hell, "pisses her off" )
Violence: PG13 ( Decapitations, deaths where blood is gushing out [fae blood is gold]; not overly graphic, but still showcasing brutal ways to be killed by the Queen and her guards )
Other:  PG13 ( The Queen takes Carden's memories and he wakes up next to a fae woman. There is innuendo, but nothing is seen. Arabella mentions at one point a memory where she had to sell her body [before the book begins] in order to survive )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I really like the cover. It's striking. I also like how unique the title treatment is.  At the same time, it IS a little hard to read the title. This would be one of those books where I'd have to confirm the title on the spine or title page. But I like that it took a chance on something creative!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Casey L. Bond
Release Date: Nov. 2, 2018
Publisher: Casey L. Bond
Received: For Rreview 

Prince Carden of Tierney lost his home, family, and claim to the throne in one fell swoop when he rebelled against his father for a cause he knew was right. Instead of wallowing in despair, he embarks on a new journey, starting a new life on the Southern Isle. When he finds himself caught in a web woven by the famously ruthless fae queen, Coeur, he insults her and she vows to teach him the most difficult and heart-breaking lesson he will ever learn: that humans are incapable of love, and that hearts are beastly things.

Arabella wasn’t really living, she was existing and surviving as best she could. A chance encounter with Carden changes everything for her, but the deadly game he’s dragged her into might cost her life.

Still, she agrees to play. The rules the fae queen gives them are vague, and it’s obvious there are things Queen Coeur isn’t telling them. She’s sure of it. But what she does know is that together, she and Carden must pass a series of tests and trials. If they fail, game over. But if they succeed, she just might be able to restore her family and carve out the life she’s always envisioned.