Magic and Mystery and (Quite Possibly) Romance | A Review of Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

“Do you know what you’re about to step into? Nothing but heartbreak will come from this.”

Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart

Length: 416 pages

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Book Description: 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…

My Review

Star Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 – 4 / 5 stars!

This book was fast-paced – just the way I like it. 😁

It was probably the best thing about it for me, if I’m being honest. I also absolutely adored the Magnificent North – the main setting of the story – and the way that Garber described it made it sound so mystical. A whimsical, winter wonderland, if you will. I also loved all of the magical items and creatures in the book too: cute little baby dragons, snowy spirit foxes, and the magical “recipe” books that show up every once in a while.

Confession: I haven’t read the Caraval trilogy. And I have no plans to, as of right now. I just thought the premise of this novel sounded interesting, and kind of up Guilty Pleasure Alley for me. So I picked it up and gave it a shot. And I loved it.

It was super easy to get into Once Upon a Broken Heart though, and I think it was a great spinoff in that respect. (I consider the best types of spinoffs to be those where no required reading of the original material that inspired them is necessary to understand the new stuff. I might be biased though, because those are my favorite types of same-universe-based-books.)

Anyway, even though I liked how fast this book moved, this book almost seemed to move a little too fast, sometimes. Like, things were literally happening one after another, and it felt like the characters never had the time to breathe or grow properly. I get that plot-driven storytelling is a thing, but this was almost too much plot slapped into one novel.

“People who don’t like me call me Jacks.”

Jacks 🃏 was absolutely the star of the novel, and it’s a crime that he wasn’t in it more. He wasn’t the protagonist, but I think he would’ve been a better one than we actually got. (Then again, he was a major character in the Caraval books, so he would’ve had too much baggage in his POV for new readers to understand.) Sassy, intentionally incorrigible, and drop-dead gorgeous (and most importantly, interesting). As well as the kind of guy that I’d never date in real life, as he’s mildly toxic and completely untrustworthy. And hey, he had blue hair for most of the book, and who doesn’t like blue hair? Do you know how many brunet protagonists I’ve had to read about over the years?

And speaking of characters with unusual hair…

Once Upon a Broken Heart’s actual protagonist is Evangeline Fox 🦊, who is crowned in rose gold. Straight up, I gotta say that I loved her last name and its connections to the little stories she talks about throughout the book. I also gotta say, though, she was kind of… pretty annoying. She was meant to be seventeen years old, but I felt that her maturity level was closer to thirteen. She was almost comically naive, and made some pretty dumb decisions, particularly early on. She’d also flip-flop between very extreme opinions over and over again, and it threw me off with how unrealistic it could be sometimes. But she had drive, and was a fairly active protagonist with goals, so I won’t begrudge her too much. (And she got far less annoying in the second half of the novel, so there’s that, too.)

The Fates were also very interesting, though they seemed to show up for no apparent reason, as of the end of this novel. I expect to see more of them in the sequel, since that’s what they’re for. I also expect to see more of Marisol, Eva’s stepsister, who was a big “is she or isn’t she evil” type of character. The book was deliberately confusing on the state of Eva and Marisol’s relationship, and it still wasn’t defined by the ending. But, I guess that’s what sequels are for.

And yes, even before I saw that there was a sequel announced, (I read this a bit ago, btw) I knew this book was gonna have one. There were just too many plot and character threads left undone, not to mention the cliffhanger, and the fact that Evangeline didn’t open the [REDACTED DUE TO SPOILERS].

“I believe there are far more possibilities than happily ever after and tragedies. Every story has the potential for infinite endings.”

There’s one last thing I’d like to mention before I conclude this review. I loved the vampires in this book so much. (Yes, there were vampires in this book.) They weren’t sparkly, immortal, angst-y, teenage hunks. They were really vampires; the kind that attack humans and suck their blood and are absolute predators, who don’t care about making out with teenage girls.

Oh! You were wondering whether I recommend this or not? Well, the answer is… a resounding yes! Go ahead and read this if you like fantasy books with weird and creative world building and romance. Well, go on.

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