For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in happily ever after. Until she learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, and her dreams are shattered.
Desperate to stop the wedding, and 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 pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy . . .
In a bid to save her first love (maybe even her true love) from marrying someone she believes to have cursed him, Evangeline Fox prays to the trickster of fates, the Prince of Hearts, to stop the wedding mere minutes before it’s to take place. Jacks is more than happy to oblige Evangeline, who ultimately gets more than what she bargained for, becoming famous, selected as an emissary of the Empress of Valenda and setting sail to a whole other Kingdom. Evangeline doesn’t know whether she’s got the best or worst of fortunes, but what becomes clear, is the Prince of Hearts has her right where he wants her. Once Upon A Broken Heart spins a tale of untangling a web of secrets, hidden agendas and long buried magic, so that the world as Evangeline knew it, will never be the same again.
I must stress from the offset, I personally found OUABH required reading the Caraval series first. There are umpteen spoilers for the series within, and a lot of context in OUABH is richer by knowing the events of Caraval, particularly Finale, with the likes of the fates and Jacks’ recent heartbreak. So I’ll repeat: read the Caraval books first!
Once Upon A Broken Heart follows the perspective of Evangeline, who is an interesting protagonist, toeing the line of being both a little bit good and a little bad throughout, which completely reeled me in. One minute she annoyed by doing things she knew to be morally wrong, but then she equally felt guilty and cared about the consequences. But most of all she was endlessly hopeful, which won me over again and again. In fact, I’d say Evangeline was like a blend of Caraval’s Tella and Scarlett. She has the hopefulness of Scarlett then the recklessness and charm of Tella.
Then there’s the wicked Fate at the heart of the story. Unfortunately, we don’t follow Jacks perspective, which I really hope changes in the sequel, but I really loved what Garber has done with him here. Jacks was his usual mischievous self, who never shows his hand and does his best to resist his inner soft side that longs for his true love, especially with his recent heartbreak. It was great to be reunited with him. Plus I LOVED his makeover! No spoilers, but gosh I can’t wait to see his fanart.
I could cheerlead about the supporting characters ALLLL DAY. They were awesome! There are newcomers in the form of Evangeline’s cold stepmother and meek cousin, then the cocky Prince Apollo and some as yet unencountered Fates like the Unwed Bride and Chaos, all the while having brief cameos from Scarlett, Tella and Poison.
It’s super impressive how well balanced and developed the new characters were; they have their own stories that appeal just as much as Evangeline and Jacks’, and I’m invested in the answers to them just as much as the main story.
Evangeline and Jacks as a couple is beyond visually pleasing. I’m just itching to see all the fanart that’s going to come in the coming months. Seeing them grow on each other, finding commonality in the pain of previous lost loves, and then their banter and humour, was a joy to read. Garber definitely captured that exciting buzz that blossoming friendships to maybe-something-more *oh so well*. I’ve got the fuzzies people!
The plot was always moving with a lot of strands interwoven well to tie together by the end. It’s my favourite kind of whirlwind, whimsical escapism. I did feel it was not quite as fairground fun as Caraval (as it’s obviously not set in a game) but it still has Garber’s all in all comforting and fairytale style. There’s curses, spells, potions, sparkly castles and people being turned to stone. It was dazzling and beautifully written. Additionally, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of mystery and intrigue throughout the book; too many times I found myself battling with my instincts telling me to believe or not to believe something, yet I still found myself pricking my finger on the spindle wheel, because I still had hope against all better judgement it would turn out rosy.
We are left with a cliffhanger but it’s not the most agonising of ones (thank you, Stephanie!!) instead I’m left excited theorising where the story goes next. There are questions of where characters stand, where characters have went, what mysterious magic is still to be discovered and how that’ll effect Valenda. There’s certainly a lot of doors – arches *wink wink, see what I did there?* – to go through and explore for the sequel.
Once Upon A Broken Heart is an incredibly fun and exciting expansion of Caraval’s world. I couldn’t put it down; I loved the story, the characters, Garber’s lyrical writing and I’m excited, curious and bouncy for more. I can already feel the sequel will be so much fun. I can’t wait to get my hands on a hardback copy! The cover has done the story true justice, well done Hodderscape!
Thank you kindly to Hodder & Stoughton, @readeatretreat and Netgalley for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for this honest review.