4.5 out of 5 STARS!!!
Lusielle’s bleak but orderly life as a remedy mixer is shattered when she is sentenced to die for a crime she didn’t commit. She’s on the pyre, about to be burned, when a stranger breaks through the crowd and rescues her from the flames.
Brennus, Lord of Laonia is the last of his line. He is caught in the grip of a mysterious curse that has murdered his kin, doomed his people and embittered his life. To defeat the curse, he must hunt a birthmark and kill the woman who bears it in the foulest of ways. Lusielle bears such a mark.
Stalked by intrigue and confounded by the forbidden passion flaring between them, predator and prey must come together to defeat not only the vile curse, but also the curse giver who has already conjured their demise.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book . . . and how much sleep deprivation I endured as a result. I warn you now, this may be my lengthiest review yet!
The first thing you need to know about The Curse Giver is that Machado will keep you guessing. She is a genius at providing tantalizing hints. I always try to figure things out when I’m reading a novel. If I discern the ending before the author reveals it, then I feel pretty darn smug – although nipping at the heels of that comes a slight disappointment that the author hadn’t been more cryptic. I never have that issue with Machado’s novels. Similar to her Stonewiser series, she continually surprised and delighted me as she revealed more and more about the characters and the world of this story. (Btw, if you have not read her Stonewiser series, then you must, I repeat MUST, read them!)
Machado also continues her streak in being a murderous tease when it comes to crafting the romance between her two leading characters – Bren & Lucielle. She excels at writing relationships! Again, if you’ve read the Stonewiser series, then prepare for more of that hot, juicy, enthralling romance in The Curse Giver.
Another talent I’ve noticed is Machado’s formidable skill in writing competent, self-sufficient, relatable female characters. Lucielle’s character evolves from a docile, subservient girl into a strong, willful, and extraordinary woman. She sheds the emotional shackles of her terrible past and, refusing to be beholden to anyone ever again, becomes the master of her own destiny. It doesn’t take long before her wit and stubbornness aid in diffusing the tumultuous wall around the Lord of Laonia. What am I getting at? Well, to put it bluntly, Lucielle constantly busts Bren’s balls leaving him gape-mouthed like a suffocating fish out of water! And. It. Is. Hysterical!
Bren. Oh dear Bren. What to say about him? What is it in me that loves an angst-ridden male? Well, aside from being cursed and thereby tortured and haunted by the heinous acts he has committed in his efforts to break the curse, and his volatile mood swings, he has brief, shining moments when he shows his hopeless romantic, could-she-ever-truly-love-me, side. He’s just my kind of complicated, messed-up, dude-in-distress yumminess!
Other characters I really loved were (just to name a few): Severo (a brash and quirky member of Bren’s Twenty that I liked instantly), Hato (who took awhile to grow on me, but redeemed himself later on), Khalia (who completely surprised me), and Elfu & Carfu (the little monkey men I found curious but obstinantely loyal and therefore likeable). A myriad of additional characters go hand in hand with an abundance of intrigue. I couldn’t figure out who supported who and who was going to double cross who next.
And of course, true to form, the world Machado has created is beautiful and dangerous. The Dismal Bog for example is home to a gruesome tree-like creatures whose tentacles snatch unsuspecting prey and trap them beneath the surface where it drains the victim’s life. The Dismal Bog also gives passage to Golden Monarchs – beautiful butterflies who fly in a place of vile darkness and, when startled, escape in a puff of golden dust. Whereas, the city of Teos, where the Chosen and lords of the land meet to pay tribute, boasts stunning architecture, gorgeous shrines, and more.
Now, time to talk about Machado’s magic system. Obviously, as one could deduce from the title of the novel, there is the magic of the curse that was set upon the Lord of Laonia. There are also gods and goddesses, including those who fell from grace. The Chosen have their own nifty power over the airs. However, the one that was most striking was the power Lucielle wielded. Machado takes a simple thing like mixing herbs and remedies and turns it into a system so complex that it has to be magic to work! For me, this – Lucielle’s gift of creating remedies – above all else was the crème de la crème of The Curse Giver.
I hope Machado isn’t finished with the characters of The Curse Giver . . . for while Bren & Lucielle’s tale could extend into a sequel, the final pages allude to designs on another legend – a being who becomes cursed at the end – and that is a tale of which we perceive only at its infancy.
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Appropriate for ages 15 & up.
About Dora Machado:
Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series. She holds a master’s degree in business administration and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in history from Georgetown University. She was born in Michigan and grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a bilingual fascination for writing, a preference for history, and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She enjoys long and winding walks, traveling, and connecting with the amazingly clever readers who share in her mind’s adventures. She lives in Florida with her indulging husband and three very opinionated cats.
***I received a free copy of The Curse Giver from Dora Machado in exchange for an honest review.***
Read more about Fantasy’s “Real” Heroines – Lusielle at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/?p=244