I always hate when I’m really excited for a book and it turns out to be a massive disappointment. Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and illustrated by Frank Miller was that kind of book for me. So much so, in fact, that I’m not even sure if I care to watch the Netflix series coming out soon anymore. As an avid fan of Arthurian stories and retellings, Cursed missed the mark for me in so many ways.
Meant to be somewhat of an origin story for the Lady of the Lake, Cursed follows young Nimue as she responds to the desecration of her home and her people. The Druids are under attack from a religious order of Paladins who seek to wipe her kind from existence. When the sword of power, as it is called in this novel, falls into Nimue’s hands she is instructed to bring it to Merlin. Instead, she begins a war.
To start with, Cursed was really difficult to get into just from the beginning. I don’t know if it was the dry writing or the fact that I just did not care at all about any of the characters, but something was off with it. What’s worse is that I felt that way through pretty much all of the story. Cursed, to put it simply, read like really bad fanfiction from someone who had minimal knowledge of the Arthurian legends and decided to spin his own story whilst using the names of the original characters.
In fact, all of the characters came across as caricatures of their former selves. So much so that it’s laudable this is even considered a retelling. Barring the names, the characters can barely be considered shadows of their inspirations. Nimue was annoying through and through, Arthur was massively disappointing, Merlin was a disaster in so many different ways that I’m honestly somewhat ashamed of how much he was butchered in this tale, Uther was pathetic and disturbing rather than powerful and cruel or misguided, and honestly, I won’t even get into the mess that was Guinevere, Squirrel, Percival, Morgan, and Gwain.
And the romance. Why was that even included at all? It was so forced and eye-roll inducing. Then we move into how the “Excalibur” of this story corrupted those who wielded it, Merlin’s past with the sword, Arthur’s desire for Nimue to get rid of it, and Nimue being influenced into declaring herself a Queen and I just found myself really frustrated with basically everything that the story contained.
Ultimately, there was almost nothing about this book that I could even bring myself to like just a little bit. Even the artwork, which was half the reason many people even talked about this book in the first place, was immensely disappointing. In the end, there is only one moment in which I’ll give credit where credit is due, and say that ending bordered on the spectacular. I really appreciated the way the book concluded Nimue’s story, even if the story itself was a disaster.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.