Title- Once Upon a Broken Heart
Author- Stephanie Garber
Series- the sequel is The Ballad of Never After releasing Fall 2022
Genre- YA fantasy
POV- third person, one POV
Trope- unsure due to questions needing answered in sequel
Steam level- clean
Cover– a little vague, but pretty
Comps– The Ten Thousand Doors of January, and this doesn’t really relate, but I also kept thinking of Fantastic Beasts (Harry Potter)
For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in true love and happy endings…until she learns that the love of her life will marry another.
Desperate to stop the wedding and to heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic, but wicked, Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.
But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game ― and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’d pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…
Completely entranced by both the prologue that has a conscious bell that rings warnings and the beginning of chapter one with the article in the Whisper Gazette
Character Development- Jacks is the one who will probably grow the most, but it’s unclear until the sequel. Evangeline learns that there are different styles and meanings of love. She’s also learning about her identity and who to trust, but these arcs felt incomplete in the first one.
Best part- the whimsical fairytale style and potential within the world.
“Every story has the potential for infinite endings.”
What I would change- see below. I may have been too nice on the rating by giving it a 4.3 (I just really liked the world building and its potential) … maybe it was closer to 4.0/5
Setting- The map is incredible with Fortuna Castle, Meridian Empire, Chaos’s Underground Kingdom, Wolf Hall, The Spires, The Mermaid and the Pearls.
Prose-“She wanted to hate the taste, but it was more like a feeling than a flavor. It was the last perfect movement before a dream ends, drops of sunshine falling like rain, lost wishes that had been found.”
Character goals/motivations- it changed a bit but basically she wanted to live a fairy-tale
Theme- hhhm- unclear until sequel comes out
“Just love him the same way you love your life, love him without holding back, love him as if every day with him will be more magical that than the last, love him as if he’s your destiny and the world would be better if you two are together, and he won’t be able to ever stop loving you.”
Dialogue- average, a little dry
Ethics/morals- murder, lies, deception
Conflict/tension/obstacles- eh … a lot “happens to her”- not a huge fan of no agency
Thoughts while reading-
Page 39- I’m not sure the direction the story is taking. It feels a little aimless. Interesting but aimless.
Page 42- but how did anyone know she did that at the wedding?
Page 63- the letter from the empress is intriguing, but again… where is this story going? I’m not sure the point of everything right now. It feels a bit unorganized.
Part 2- the step-sisters are headed to The North to meet Apollo. This magical world is awesome and the map of this area in the front of the book is gorgeous. I’m wondering what Agnes is up to & when Evangeline will have to do her three kisses. The dynamic with her sister fluctuates a lot between feeling betrayed and guilt. Which is it? Will they talk about Luc? Will Evangeline see Jacks again? Is he the same prince as Apollo?
Page 147- ugh. The author is doing a good job of making me not like her choices.
Page 157- I’m getting a sense of “have a taste of your own medicine” theme as an upcoming possibility but I feel like there’s more gray areas and two sides of the story which is fantastic
Halfway- a little frustrated by all the manipulation but maybe it’s for the greater good?
Page 241- she’s being used a lot. I know she has good intentions but the repetition is getting tiresome. She’s trying to take control and make her choices but the trickery is getting heavy and burdensome
Page 286- I love their mini adventures to different settings in the North. It’s a bit too coincidental that each Fate works in the castle, so I’m using its symbolism of some sort that I haven’t fully figured out yet.
Page 344- I really like how the interior formatting looks like genuine articles
Ending-Page 402- I’m a big believer in cliffhangers but also in resolving the big elements of each book separately. This book felt overwhelmingly unfinished. It felt like part 1 wasn’t needed much and could’ve been condensed to one chapter. Then when this book ended, it felt like it was right before “the big climatic scene.”
So, yes I’m interested in the sequel, but no, I’m not certain I’ll buy it because these action beats, organization, and flow all felt off. I loved the whimsical vibe, spells, and the world of the North, but the entirety felt too aimless