Curses by Lish McBride

Thank you to Penguin Teen & Netgalley for an eARC of this in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Best case of surprise gays.

ID: Curses by Lish McBride sitting in a ring of pastel flowers with a dragon knife next to it. Check out my Instagram post!

Curses is a Beauty & the Beast retelling but where our female protagonist, Merit Craven, is cursed to be a beast for defying her mother’s wishes. Unless she finds love or marries a man of her mothers choosing before her 18th birthday, she’ll be a beast forever. Enter, Tevin Dumont, his mother has forced him to be Merit’s helper in exchange for her freedom because she stolen something from the Cravens. Tevin must help Merit find a husband and avoid the scandal that ending in her original curse. For not only is Tevin mandated to help her, but Tevin has organized several of the cons that Merit fell pray to.

The main plot line is all about Merit finding a husband: the main action is Tevin escorting Merit to various events and advising her. Basically all of Merit’s choices are terrible but she must find the least evil of them all. Merit’s mother was a hard character to like. While on one hand she wants the best for Merit, she also goes about it the wrong way many times. There are several instances where Merit is pushed to the edge of her ability and the curse punishes her. The relationship between these two was complicated, but I did like when both of them tried to be better about communicating.

This book is such a slow burn. In between Merit going to parties and events, we see her start to truly befriend Tevin, his brother Amaury and his cousin Val. I loved seeing them all become closer to Merit and her healer Ellery, and her guard Kaiya. I think one of my favorite things was seeing Val pine over Kaiya. Plus Ellery’s utter disdain and never being impressed by Tevin or his family. I loved them so much and having a nonbinary character was such a delightful surprise! Then there was Tevin and Merit, I didn’t think I’d fall so in love with their relationship but I absolutely did. It was just too cute and their banter was the best.

The world of Curses was so complex. There are many types of magical creatures including fae and fae descendants. The world also has several kingdoms and we see many of them represented. I do wish we’d gotten to learn more about the various worlds and their customs, but as most of the narrative is focused on Merit, we mostly just see her culture. Overall, this story pleasantly surprised me and I very much enjoyed it!

Rep: Nonbinary side character, lesbian side character, possible sapphic side character–not confirmed.

CWs: Violence, alcohol consumption, drugging of side character without their knowledge, body horror–kinda, animal death, confinement in cage, death of a parent, emotional abuse, medical content–exams by healer, panic attack.

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