Review Blog

Nov 11 2019

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

cover image

Illus. by Frank Miller. Penguin, 2019. ISBN: 9780241376614.
(Age: 14+) As daughter of her village's chief Druid, 16 year old Nimue would always be different from the other villagers but her strangely scarred back and ability to powerfully experience hidden forces further sets her apart. Dewdenn is a 'fey' village, in touch with nature spirits and as such a target for the Red Paladins, terrorising the countryside seeking out heresy on behalf of the church, crucifying the fey folk accusing them of witchcraft. Tired of being unwanted in her village Nimue decides to leave on a ship from the nearest town but when she gets there the boat has left. Returning, Nimue finds her village destroyed by the Red Paladins and her dying mother charges her to take a sacred object to Merlin. The object is the legendary 'Sword of Power' and Nimue finds she can channel the power of the 'hidden' through the sword. Merlin is at the court of Uther Pendragon, on her way there Nimue meets and falls in love with Arthur, a mercenary son of a knight. The sword's legend says that 'whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true king' so it becomes the focus for competing powers vying for possession. As violence escalates, Nimue's world descends into chaos as the fey villages are destroyed at an ever increasing rate. She responds violently channelling the sword's destructive power against her enemies, becoming a rallying point for the fey refugees. The struggle for the sword of power becomes tied up with the annihilation of the fey villages by the Church, with the involvement of Uther, leading to confusing and ultra-violent battles, no doubt linked to the fact that the book is basically a screenplay for a Netflix series. Other than familiar names and a magical sword the story owes little to the Arthurian legends. The characters are poorly developed, sometimes with the feeling that they are placeholders for more detail in later instalments. Little effort is spent on establishing a consistent sense of time or place, this will probably be better realised in the Netflix version. The illustrations have a sense of energy, in powerful compositions with strong lines. While the wrapped and laced costumes are great, inconsistencies in outfits make it hard sometimes to identify the character. Where there is a double page spread, the focal point often disappears into the book's gutter. Middle school fans of Game of Thrones and violent fantasies might like this but be aware that the violence is quite graphic. (It has been picked up to be a Netflix original series).
Themes: Fantasy, medieval times, Arthurian Legends, magic.
Sue Speck

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