The story itself is quite simple, the line of the House of Uras is under a deadly curse and to break the curse the heir must kill the woman bearing the Mark of the Goddess. But with time running out and another kingdom plotting an invasion, the stakes keep getting higher. As far as the main plot is concerned, it doesn’t sound too exciting. But what makes this book stand out from others like it are Dora Machado’s treatment of the story and the characters.
The Curse Giver is slightly long book (or at least it felt long) but it was never dull. There was constant progress where the plot was concerned and never a dull moment. The world-building was excellent made it easy for the reader to inhabit the world right alongside the characters. The pace of the narrative was consistent and while there were parts that were more exciting than others, the more peaceful parts also served as a respite from said excitement. The book was also narrated from multiple points-of-view, which I didn’t mind. The multiple POVs served to give a more complete picture of what was going on.
I especially loved the characters in The Curse Giver. All of them were complex and flawed which made them more compelling. Bren was the last remaining heir to the house of Uras and the Lord of Laonia. He had lost his father and all of his brothers to the curse and he knew that if he did not beat the curse, it would not only mean the end of his House but would also doom his people. While he was prone to brooding early on in the book, he slowly came to life with Lusielle. I liked his character because he wasn’t afraid of making tough choices and he was honourable. Treating his men and those around him with respect. He was also a fair man who kept his word. He protected Lusielle when everyone around him urged him to kill her.
Lusielle could not have had a more painful life. She had lost her parents and her house to a raging fire, been married to an abusive brute who betrayed her, she was tortured and then was almost burned at the stake. All of this however did not break her spirit. She is probably the most resilient female character I’ve come across in a while. Even after she meets Bren, she is far from safe. She gets in so much trouble that I often wondered if she were the who was cursed and not Bren. And the most frustrating part of it was that she didn’t get in trouble because she was careless. I actually loved how resilient she was. She never gave up even when it seemed that there was no way out. She was intelligent, sharp, brave and bold, coming up with plans that didn’t even occur to the those around her and then executing them. She was decisive did not let anyone bully or intimidate her. She was also fiercely independent and excellent at what she did, Bren needed her more than she needed him.
The relationship between Lusielle and Bren was born out of necessity and then developed into love. It was a long road and a bumpy ride. But with Bren vowing to keep her safe and Lusielle’s own refusal to give up on him, they were tied together. They were also more alike than they initially realised. They had both had incredibly hard lives and they were both resilient. I loved that Lusielle did not let Bren keep her from what she wanted to do. More often than not, she was the one who saved Bren and kept him safe which was an interesting role reversal.
There was also a somewhat wide net of secondary characters and I liked most of them. Severo, Carfu and Elfu were among those I liked almost immediately. Hato, on the other hand, I didn’t like initially, he seemed too hell-bent on killing Lusielle and refused to believe that she wanted to help Bren.
The women in The Curse Giver were especially well-written. All of them were flawed but also so well realised. They were intelligent, complex and capable women and it was rare so many of them in one book. From Lusielle herself to Eleanor, Tatyane, Khalia and Ernilda, they were all amazing women. They were none of them what they appeared to be.
The antagonists were also especially vile from King Riva to Orell and especially that sorry excuse of a man, Aponte Rummins. They were awful and I was not sorry to see them get what they deserved.
The Curse Giver was an excellent read, full of twists and turns and some truly incredible characters. I was hooked from the very beginning and could hardly bring myself to stop reading. It was thoroughly engrossing from start to finish. If you like well-written characters and especially amazing female characters, this is a must-read.