Curse Breakers, 1-3 (Enchanted, Darkens, Faceted)
Series: Curse Breakers 1-3, Omnibus
Author: Melinda Kucsera
Curse Breaker Books 1-3 features the first three books of the Curse Breaker Series in one action-packed boxed set.
Curse Breaker Enchanted
Sarn wants to be like everyone else, not a mage with a power he can barely control. But he must hide his magic in a country run by a group that wants to destroy all magic.
But that magic comes in handy when he wakes up far from home with only his cloak to protect him from monsters and murderous trees. How will Sarn return home in time and unravel the dark conspiracy that’s destroying it before his son pays the ultimate price?
Curse Breaker Darkens
When a disembodied voice warns him that a demon is after his mage, Jerlo sets off to find the man who could summon it. He swore an unbreakable oath to protect Sarn, no matter the cost.
In a country run by a group that wants to destroy all magic, mages and demons shouldn’t exist. But they do, and Jerlo’s in a fight, not just for his life but for his soul. Even if he risks both, how will he save Sarn without magic?
Curse Breaker Faceted
Sarn spies on the men responsible for his best friend’s death with his young son in tow. And those men are hunting for magic-stealing rocks to fuel a zealot’s quest. When their greed leads them into a forbidden cavern, they release an ancient monster, and it’s hungry for a certain mage and his son. Who will survive the dark terror lurking under the mountain?
Curse Breaker Books 1-3 contains the first three books of the Curse Breaker Series: Curse Breaker Enchanted, Curse Breaker Darkens, and Curse Breaker Faceted. It’s an epic fantasy adventure starring a loving father, his young son, and the people and monsters that dwell in an immersive world of intrigue and adventure. Get Curse Breaker Books 1-3 now if you love found family, reluctant heroes, and magical mayhem, then this is the book for you!
Curse Breakers has a rather unique setup, that I liked in a lot of ways. Sarn’s day-to-day to life and his everyday job continues throughout the story, even as he is already overwhelmed by juggling his job with being an older brother and a teenage father. He can’t let his son be discovered lest he lose him, and poverty is something that is very immediate. Sarn has to steal food every day just for his family to eat. He has a complex relationship with his younger brother, Miren, as the reason Sarn is Indentured was to provide an education for Miren in the hope his brother can someday escape their poverty, and his young son, Ran, practically adores him and just wants him to spend more time playing with him.
Meanwhile, Sarn’s masters seem to treat him with some level of contempt, though they are not exactly cruel, and his magic whispers in his ears, meanwhile he must keep it secret in a society that kills mages. I enjoyed the unique flavor of the magic. Sarn’s earth magic is always talking to him, and always mapping out his surroundings and keeping track of everything. It also forces him to keep his promises to the letter, utterly and absolutely, and keeps him from lying. My feelings about some of this were conflicted. Anything Sarn says becomes an unbreakable vow, and while it is interesting, at the same time there was something that really seemed wrong about Sarn’s magic forcing him to obey psychopaths and not allowing him to change. Is there something more to it than there seems to be? Is the magic itself twisted in some way by something?
So at first I really liked the books. Even as Sarn struggles just to manage his daily life, who he is as a mage pulls him into a fantastic and epic adventure – but one which leaves him still having to going about the mundane task of living, a young man with a life. I really liked that balance. Sarn’s magic and his adventures matter and they are important, but they aren’t obvious, or even visible, to most of the people around him. It seems to me that there is hope and humanity in this, as if Sarn’s story can stand for the fact that there’s so much more going on – and at stake – in every life that most people can see, at least if they are on the outside.
Furthermore, I really liked so many of the elements of this world and its magic. Shayari’s Queen of All Trees is probably one of the coolest things I have seen in fantasy worlds. I liked her and her enchanted forests of sentient trees that protects the world and has three rules which must be followed within its domain. I really liked her magic, and her connection to life, and as Enchanted progressed, I found myself loving it more and more. There is a touch to the way death and life beyond death is handled that I rarely see, and that I loved – as in this world, death is a part of life, not to be feared when it comes in its time, and the life beyond death is not a terror. I really enjoyed the themes of forgiveness and pardon, and the fact this world is not at all vengeful, but instead shows forgiveness and pardon. Enchanted has many of my favorite themes, things I almost never see presented very well, if at all, but which I absolutely love.
As I got to the end of Enchanted, I started to believe this was going to become a new favorite series, in a place all of its own, but as I got into Darkens, that turned into a disappointment so sharp it became hate. Darkens breaks from Enchanted in a number of ways. It describes gory, detailed, and nasty scenes, that were not in keeping with the tone of Enchanted, (even though some nasty things happened, but the way they are presented was very different), and with far more detailed description than necessary. Into a fantasy world, with fantastic magic, it introduces overt Christianity, not a few Christian themes, but crucifixes and historical details, and to crown all, magic crucifixes and other overtly referenced elements that I found disgusting, and that I both take objection to in themselves (I do not like magic crucifixes) and find to be utterly repulsive and out of place in a fantasy world. The narrative is confusing and difficult to follow and make any sense of, and the world-building is completely scattered. Over all, Darkens felt like what I imagine a horror novel might be. Whereas the world-building in Enchanted suggested a somewhat wider world and was coherent, with things fitting together even if they aren’t understood, in Darkens and Faceted zillions of new creatures and magics are thrown at the reader without comprehension, while things that were previously introduced and seemed to have potential for further exploration – such as what it means that Nolo is Death’s Marksman – are almost completely passed over. Some of the new elements completely clash with the already established magical creatures and setting, while others simply seem discordant, as if they are presented out of time and place, crowding new things on top of old ones that were only barely introduced. The author departs from showing almost exclusively Sarn’s perspective as in Enchanted, and instead showing many, many perspectives, many of them with only single chapters, that feel as if they need more development, if they are to be shown at all. Yet Faceted ends with a handful of scenes that return to the feel of Enchanted, and further teased me with what I loved in Enchanted.
Besides all of this, it is possibly a lesser complaint, but I did not like the indication throughout the series that death, or the magic and power in death, is something only evil can use. Then again, I find very, very little that deals with this theme satisfactorily to me, so I won’t beg on it too much.
If you’d like more details (more of some of what I liked, and perhaps some of what I didn’t, though I’m not sure how much I want to elaborate on that), read on in …
The Spoiler Review
There was a great deal I really loved about Enchanted (and some of the final scenes in Faceted) that begs for further exploration. Sarn’s masters, Jerlo and Nolo, are gradually introduced more and more throughout Enchanted, and one sees that their brusque exterior hides a concern for him that he can’t see through the mistakes they make and their dismissive treatment of him, and that they might be more trustworthy than he thinks they are – people who just might let him keep his son: or would they think he’s not suitable and they know better and act out of their pride and arrogance? It was a very interesting development, but one I found not altogether organic, or perhaps it’s difficult for me to see it well past what came later.
However, I did really enjoy Sarn’s relationships with his brother and his son and his friend or old friend. All of those felt deep and rich and true. The contest for his attention between Miren and Ran, the trouble in his relationship with Miren, with Miren not really understanding what he’s given up, perhaps not really wanting to, as perhaps he did not want Sarn to do that for him or has mixed feelings about it, and also feeling like he has to do well to be worthy of what Sarn did for him, and also the fact he feels kind of hurt by the fact there’s so much of Sarn’s life that is kept secret from him. Because Miren doesn’t have Sarn’s magic, and Sarn doesn’t want to share that part of him with Miren, for various reasons. They seem like they might be about to drift apart in a way that’s rather sad, yet they do love each other. Sarn’s relationship with his son, Ran is less complicated, and I loved Ran’s childlike love and wisdom.
I also enjoyed Sarn’s relationship with his best friend, Shade. Sarn’s done a lot for Shade – he seems to do a lot for everyone in his life, maybe even things he shouldn’t do, trading away parts of him that aren’t his to trade away – and Shade has, more or less, been a good friend to Sarn. Except that something happened, and Shade has made a pact with a demon and is deceived in himself about what he wants, and he causes a lot of harm and threatens everything Sarn cares about, something Sarn only finds out about at the end (of Enchanted). Yet I really liked the fact that this is not a world built about revenge and the vindictive idea of justice present in so much religious – and non-religious – thought. Instead, Shade is redeemed and gets to pass on to the world beyond, and it’s impossible to do justice to here, but I just thought it was really, really well done. And I liked the Queen of All Trees and her role in all this, as a guardian of what’s good who’s basically a ferry for the souls of the dead to the world beyond. It’s really beautiful and picturesque, very aesthetic, and also with something more. I just really liked the Queen Tree in a lot of different ways.
So I really wanted to see these themes developed. I wanted to know how Death’s Marksman plays into the situation with the Queen of All Trees, and who the Heroes of Shayari are and … so forth. And Faceted takes us back for a few chapters to Sarn and the Queen of All Trees, and redemption and her part as a protector of what’s good, a symbol of hope. But Faceted was crazy, too, with too many disjointed points of view and quite a bit too much of the horror that dominated Darkens – along with passages from the point of view of a “Son of Man,” and, probably the best thing to say is, I was disgusted. Even if I’d liked the way these things were portrayed, I would have found them really jarring and out of place, and as it is, I found them to be rather blasphemous. I really, really didn’t like how Jerlo’s experiences in Darkens were portrayed, and it wasn’t just the gore and horror elements. I really didn’t like what were supposed to be pacts between him and God about Sarn, that seemed to strip Sarn of agency as a free person, elevating Jerlo above him like some kind of priest whose job it was to make Sarn into something worthy.
So … the short of it is: this book was so good at first, I wanted to love it so badly. Then it got really bad, and it’s so good I still want to love, and I still want to believe the rest of the series can be okay or even really good, but it’s also so bad I want to forget about it forever, and I hate it for being so good, and then completely betraying that. Because even if you like the kind of thing it turned into, what it turned into was nothing like what seemed to be through all of book one.