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Curse by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié

Curse by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié
3.5
Book Name: Curse
Author: Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié
Publisher(s): Simon Pulse
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook
Genre(s): YA Paranormal
Release Date: January 1, 2003

Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers. Please read with caution if you have yet to finish book one.

This book, as I might say to my friends, is a trip.

(Actually, it’s nowhere near as intense as I remember the next two books being. Of course, as I remembered the first book being better than I found it, my memory may be somewhat faulty.)

Curse opens sometime after Jer’s apparent death at the end of Witch, and it wastes no time in catching us up to what the characters have been doing in the meantime. Holly has become the head of her coven and has brought the remains of Jer’s coven into hers. Nicole has run off and is hiding out in Europe, trying to avoid the trouble brought down on her head by her cousin’s arrival in her life and the subsequent generations-old feud that revived shortly thereafter. Jer is still alive, but in unbearable pain on the Isle of Avalon, waiting either to be used as a pawn by his father or be rescued by Holly.

And his father is working with demons.

Yes, the devil that appeared at the end of the previous book really was the devil, or at least a devil. There is a god and goddess, at least to the warlocks and witches, but that god is certainly not the sort of god a traditional devil might imply, and I’m a little confused as to how he fits into the theology of this world.

But that isn’t really the point, as I figured out about a third of the way through the book. This series is not written for genre snobs of any stripe. Those who stick to literary fiction would turn their noses up so high their heads would flip upside-down, and based on some of the reviews I found on Goodreads, plenty of fantasy readers have found faults with the books as well.

So why do I enjoy them?

I’m sure I could come up with something about how I read them with an uncritical eye, which would be an outright lie, or how my nostalgia colors my enjoyment, which would be true if I enjoyed other books I loved as a teen just as much. It might still be a little true, but the main reason is that they’re just fun to read. I like forbidden romances, and I like witches, and I even sometimes like characters who are as mustache-twirlingly evil as Michael Deveraux. (I really do imagine him with a mustache. It’s quite amusing.) The reason I had so much trouble with Witch is because I didn’t let myself have fun with the books. These are the kinds of books that are best for, if not mindless reading, at least reading you don’t have to care too much about.

And for all that, I did find things in it beyond mindless enjoyment.

Witch introduced us to the world of the Cahors and the Deveraux, even if it took its sweet time having Holly learn how to use magic only to present that in a glorified training montage. Curse took the danger Holly and her allies were in and amplified it. The Cahors family, it turns out, really is cursed: their loved ones will die by drowning. With an undertow pulling Holly out to sea and Nicole nearly drowning in a bathtub, that danger soon becomes all too real. As the head of a coven, Holly must rise to the occasion and protect the roughly half dozen people relying on her or face the knowledge that it’s her fault they put their lives in danger. She finds herself facing difficult decisions and Hobson’s choices, where she really only has one option, distasteful as it may be to take it. By the end of the book, the conflict has gone from black and white to black and gray. Holly may still be a better person than Michael Deveraux, but she is no saint.

Then there are the historical asides, showing how Cahors became Cathers. This is another trope I love: in-depth family history. While some might say these asides would have been better as their own book (and I would gladly read that book), I can’t bring myself to complain about them. They give the world much more depth, and with as much breadth as this book as given it, depth is something it very much needs.

Unlike other reviews I’ve written, I won’t end this by saying Curse is a book everyone should go out and read right now. I enjoyed it, and I certainly know people who would enjoy it, but I also know that the average fantasy reader has probably seen better. Who would I recommend it to, then? Someone who enjoys a bit of good fun, perhaps on a late October night with a good drink. You don’t need to have a drink to enjoy this series, but if you’re going to indulge in the sinful pleasure of reading just for fun, you might as well indulge in something else, too.

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