Fantasy Review: ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART by Stephanie Garber
Also by this author: Caraval, Legendary
Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart #1
Published by Flatiron Books on September 28, 2021
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Thanks so much to Cat Kinney from Flatiron Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Once Upon a Broken Heart. I’m thrilled to share my thoughts with you today on one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.
Stephanie Garber’s new novel, Once Upon a Broken Heart, is the first installment in her new fantasy series of the same name and it’s a companion series to her wildly popular Caraval series. As the title hints with its “once upon a time” tease, Once Upon a Broken Heart has a fairytale-like feel to it. I loved this vibe and found it very fitting for the main premise of the story, which explores how far a person will go to secure a happily ever after for themselves.
The protagonist of the novel is Evangeline Fox, a young woman who grew up in her dad’s curiosity shop, where she steeped herself in myths and legends. When Luc, the love of Evangeline’s life, abruptly dumps her in favor of her stepsister and wants to marry her immediately, Evangeline is desperate to stop the wedding and win Luc back. It comes quite naturally to her that she should seek out help from one of the legendary Fates, in particular Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. If anyone can help her, she’s sure it’s him and is willing to pay whatever price he asks of her. She knows that whatever bargain she makes with the Fate will change her life forever; she just doesn’t know if that change will be for better or for worse.
I really adored Evangeline. I felt so bad for her in those opening scenes because she’s absolutely distraught that Luc and her stepsister would betray her like this and doesn’t know who to trust anymore. She’s somewhat naïve about love and relationships and the fact that some people just cheat, but I did admire the sense of determination she displayed when going to the Prince of Hearts. Her plan to get help from a Fate might not be the smartest idea, but I had to give her credit for taking matters into her own hands to try to make something happen for herself. I don’t want to give away any spoilers about Evangeline’s journey overall and whether or not she gets that happily ever after she so desperately wants but if you enjoy a story where the protagonist experiences tremendous growth as the story progresses, you’ll enjoy this one.
Now, let me talk about Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. Jacks is your guy if you love a story that features an anti-hero because he’s the ultimate anti-hero. He was one of my favorite characters from the Caraval series and was the main reason I was so excited to read this book. And he does not disappoint. I love Jacks so much! He’s mysterious and broody, and he’s also a sexy, bad boy. He’s all about tricks and making deals with desperate souls like Evangeline, and his motives are always selfish and sometimes nefarious. He’s just such a great character, and what I loved in Once Upon a Broken Heart, is the added depth we are given with respect to him. Even though he’s clearly making this bargain with Evangeline for his own personal gain, he still can’t seem to stop himself from helping her and protecting her whenever she finds herself in trouble, which is quite often thanks to the precarious situation the deal puts her in. There’s an almost indefinable connection between them. I wouldn’t call it a romantic connection and it’s not quite a friendship either. Whatever it is though, the chemistry between the two of them is fantastic and I became immensely invested in the relationship between them as soon as they struck that fateful bargain. Trying to figure out what it is that Jacks wants out of the deal, coupled with whether or not Evangeline will get her heart’s desire, had me flying through the pages and I devoured the book in a day.
The worldbuilding is also exquisite in this story. We are introduced to a new kingdom in this series that we didn’t see in Caraval. This kingdom is in the North and Garber beautifully uses imagery and myths and folklore, to add to that fairytale-like atmosphere I mentioned earlier and vividly bring the setting to life.
Once Upon a Broken Heart is a companion to Caraval, and while it would work quite well as a standalone, if you’re ever planning to read Caraval, it’s probably best to read that series first to avoid any possible spoilers. Scarlett and Tella from Caraval make a brief appearance and it was delightful to see them again, but otherwise there isn’t much overlap in plot at all. As much as I enjoyed Caraval though, I have to admit that I actually loved Once Upon a Broken Heart even more and can’t wait to see what’s next for Evangeline and Jacks!