Leah’s Review of “Once Upon a Broken Heart” by Stephanie Garber

By: Leah

Originally posted on Leah’s Books.

Once Upon a Broken Heart

  • Author: Stephanie Garber
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: September 28, 2021
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books
  • Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart #1

CONTENT WARNING: mention of death of a parent, grief, blood, murder

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plot Summary

How far would you go for happily ever after?

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…

Overall Impression

It took me a while to get into the Caraval series, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. It was like falling into a dreamy world where anything could and did happen, and magic was real. And this book was so similar that it was hard not to love. Although it’s a whole new story with a brand new character, there is a bit of overlap. Scarlett and Donatella make a brief appearance, as does Jacks, but it takes place mostly in a new location with a new cast of characters.

Evangeline is a dreamy girl who believes in happily ever after and magic. She’s a great candidate for a fairy tale—she’s adopted, unusual, and her parents were happily married until her mother passed away years earlier, and her father remarried a woman with a daughter around her own age. When her father died, he left her his shop of curiosities. She fell in love with boy, but then suddenly he dropped her like a hot potato and fell in love with her stepsister. Desperate to stop the engagement, she makes a deal with Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. This deal leads her down a dangerous path, but also one filled with wonders and opportunities, as she travels to the North for a magical ball called Nocte Neverending.

“‘Nocte Neverending isn’t just a ball, it’s a chance at stepping into a fairytale, at changing the course of your life and finding opportunities that some people search their whole lives for.’”

Garber’s usual beautiful writing is present, making it easy for me to visualize all of the incredible and fantastical things that were described on the pages. Her strength is, as always, in the descriptions of the gorgeous dresses, with amazing creations that I wish I could actually find in stores. They’re reminiscent of times from the past, with men wearing cravats and jabots, and women wearing stunning dresses with overskirts and little capes and bodices and gloves, which probably weren’t very comfortable, but sounded absolutely beautiful. I did notice that when it came to all the dresses for her stepsister Marisol, who loved to bake, the dresses were described in terms that could easily also refer to baked goods, such as sugar, cream, and berries. 

“The base of Evangeline’s bodice was nude silk, making her look as if she were wrapped in nothing but the crisscrossing cream-velvet ribbons that went to her hips. There, pastel flowers began to appear, growing denser until every inch of her lower skirts were covered in a brilliant clash of silk violets, jeweled peonies, tulle lilies, curling vines, and sprays of gold crawling paisleys.”

However, as Evangeline finds herself in the magical northern region, she quickly realizes that she has no allies. She doesn’t know who she can trust, but she does know that she can’t trust Jacks, since he isn’t on her side, and is only working for his own ends. She doesn’t go into making the deal with him thinking that it’s going to change her future exactly as she wants, since her father did explain how deals with Fates work, but she was a bit naïve at times, which is to be expected from a relatively sheltered seventeen year old girl.

“Her father had taught her that Fates didn’t determine one’s future as their name suggested. Instead they opened doors into new futures. But doors opened by Fates didn’t always lead where people expected; instead they often lead people to new desperate deals to fix their first bad bargains.”

However, one thing about Garber’s writing that I always pick up on is her similes. She consistently compares things that don’t always seem natural, like comparing tastes/smells/looks to feelings. I can honestly say that I’ve never looked at a guy and said “wow, that guy looks like enchantment,” and I’ve also never heard anyone else say anything like that, yet that’s exactly what all the MCs seem to think in these books. Foods and drinks never taste like heartbreak or sunlight or dreams, yet somehow everything in these stories does. Maybe it’s just in this world? Here’s just one example:

“Devastation made of hair as blue as dark ocean waves, and lips sharp as cracked glass that would delightedly cut her.”

What I loved about this book was how quickly Evangeline was able to put the pieces together, and how she took responsibility for her own actions. She didn’t just pass off blame on Jacks for everything all the time, and she didn’t just say that it was fate or chance. I also liked that she grew throughout the story. This is a girl who has no safety net: she doesn’t have friends or family to rely on, she doesn’t have much of a home to return to, and she only has herself to fall back on. She’s smart and although she’s naïve, she does learn relatively quickly. 

“She kept thinking it was fate of Jacks that was toying with her life. But it had been her own questionable choices that had started her on this path.”

This was a fast-paced story with a lot of twists and no lack of action. It kept me intrigued and I struggled to put it down. The book was a quick read, and while a lot of things get wrapped up by the end, it does leave off with a major cliffhanger that had me jonesing to start the next book immediately. And while it doesn’t come out until September 2022, I was lucky enough to get an ARC, so you know I’ll be starting that right away.

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