Conceived in the north, and born in the south, you will know this key, because she will be crowned in rose gold.
She will be both peasant and princess, a fugitive wrongly accused, and only her willing blood with open this arch.
★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars
Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.
But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.
Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can…
You can read my review for the first book in the series here:
Once Upon a Broken Heart Review
Oh my stars. This book was like a hurricane – whipping around sharp and fast, spinning me around almost until I felt dizzy.
The Ballad of Never After is the sequel to Once Upon a Broken Heart (and the second in the eponymous series) written by Stephanie Garber. It was first published in September 2022 by Flatiron Books, and features the genres of fantasy, YA, and of course, romance. TBONA and OUABH are also spin-offs of Garber’s previous Caraval trilogy, and are set in the same universe around the same time period, but following different characters.
This book evoked the whole spectrum of emotions from me. As with the first book, I was constantly lurching from side to side on how I felt about this book. Yes, those two opposing sides were love and hate, how did you guess? But I’ll make it easy on you guys, and split that stuff up and talk about it separately.
Stuff I Liked
Once upon a time, there was a girl with a furry tail that twitched whenever snow was coming. And, Once there was a house where laughter constantly curled from the chimney instead of smoke.
Much like its predecessor, I really enjoyed a lot of the descriptions that Garber cooked up. They were unique and surreal. I also liked the weird magic and magical artifacts and stuff. They kind of made me feel put off, and I really liked that.
I also very much enjoyed the world building of the Magnificent North, once again, but even more so this time, as there was a significant amount of background revealed about it (and some of the characters, to a degree at least) in The Ballad of Never After. This was something that I felt was kind of missing in Once Upon a Broken Heart, but at the time I thought it was because I hadn’t read any of the Caraval trilogy. (That’s right, I totally went in blind!)
Stephanie Garber’s writing style is also frequently eloquent and beautiful. I just like how flowery the prose feels sometimes. It’s… nice.
Happy endings can be caught, but they are difficult to hold on to. They are dreams that want to escape the night. They are treasure with wings. They are wild, feral, reckless things that need to be constantly chased, or they will certainly run away
This was also a very fast-paced novel, and that’s honestly the last thing that I enjoyed, to some degree, about this book aside from the ending. And let me tell you: Stephanie knocked the ending to this book completely out of the park and into the next city. It was that good. Like, the book wasn’t doing too much for me, but that ending made me bump it up a star. A whole star! But I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say too much about it.
All I’ll say is that if you love romance books, the ending is gonna kick you in the feels. Hard. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: I read some spoiler free reviews after this came out and they warned me about this. But at the time, Stephanie hadn’t announced Once Upon a Broken Heart as a trilogy yet, so those poor bastards were left hanging, hoping against hope for one more book.
And then she announced another book with a title and a cover and the future looked a bit brighter. So I finally decided to commit and put it on my TBR and eventually read it. And read it I did. (And it broke my heart. In the best way possible.)
Stuff I Didn’t Like
The truth is never what you want it to be.
I’m gonna be real with you: I kind of feel like there was more that I didn’t enjoy here than I did enjoy. But Mar, you ask, how did this get four stars?
(It’s cuz of the ending guys. We just talked about this.)
The characters were once again kinda insufferable. Like, I kind of liked a few in OUABH, but they all kind of tanked in The Ballad of Never After.
Evangeline Fox, our protagonist, is still annoying. I mentioned in my other review that I thought she was starting to improve near the ending of the first book. That was, unfortunately, not true. She’s just as bad as in OUABH. Whiny and stupid. Seriously, this girl makes the worst decisions that I’ve ever seen an MC make. And they all immediately end up biting her in the butt, and she never seems to learn from them.
Not to mention, Eva doesn’t seem to have any agency. Oh sure, there’s the illusion of agency, but it’s not real. It’s never real. She’s always either being manipulated like a chess piece by someone ten steps ahead, or she’s running into the arms of various (obviously) untrustworthy people every other chapter.
Evangeline, please. Run far, far away from here.
Next on the character roster is Jacks. (Yes, his name is spelled correctly.) He’s the sexy, “bad boy” type of live interest that all the girls fall for. And he’s the most homicidal one that I’ve ever seen. Eva literally had to tell him not to murder a bunch of people more than once. Honestly, I actually thought it was really funny because I hated most of the other characters, but I didn’t understand how Eva was still falling in love with him because of this. It went against her entire character and personality.
“You give people too much credit,” Jacks grumbled. “And you should have told me this right away.”
“Why, so you could kill him?”
“No, Jacks. You can’t go around murdering people because they’re a problem.”
There’s a lot more characters here, too. Far too many to go over, here in my little review, so we’re doing a lightning round.
Apollo was a mid character, up until he wasn’t. I’ve never cared for him, personally, but that’s because I understood his role of being a plot device so that Stephanie could have a love triangle. But I underestimated him. He somehow went from mid to terrible.
LaLa was a character that kind of annoyed me in Once Upon a Broken Heart, but she was also kind of okay. But, lo and behold, she got more annoying in The Ballad of Never After, and she did a ton of stuff that I really hate her for.
Chaos was one of the lesser annoyances. Or at least, one of the lesser annoyances at first. I actually thought he was the only semi-decent guy for a while, despite being a vampire. (Shocking, I know.) But then he did that thing, and it makes me really mad, so he goes in the pile of dirty socks with the others.
Annnd that’s all the characters that I’m gonna talk about. 1) Because they’re the only ones that really matter, and 2) because this section is getting way too long.
Before I conclude this review, I also want to mention that this book has the same problem as the first one, in that it moves too fast sometimes. Like, I love a fast-paced novel as much as the next bibliophile, but characters need time to reflect and to breathe in books, and the plot was going too fast for any of that kind of stuff. Which is unfortunate, because I think TBONA could have benefitted from that.
“This isn’t a bedtime story, Little Fox.”
“Most fairytales aren’t.”
The Ballad of Never After was kind of a mid fantasy-romance with a heart wrenching ending that was so good I added a star to my rating. (An entire star guys!) Fans of Stephanie Garber’s other novels will definitely enjoy this one, as well as fans of fantasy-romance (and just romance) in general.
(And also, for those who were wondering, of course I’m going to read the last book in the trilogy, The Curse of True Love. I gotta know how it ends – especially after the ending of this book!)
Thank you so much for reading, and have an amazing day/night!
And also: Happy Valentine’s Day!! 💖🍫🌹💌
See ya ~Mar