Book Review: the Once Upon a Broken Heart Trilogy


As much as we hate to admit it, most of us had a phase related to a book series. Some of these may include Warrior Cats, Harry Potter, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid even. Many of us may not have grown out of those phases. Nevertheless, books have at one point been a source of happiness for a lot of us. If you want to find a series that may just spark that love of books again, there is one series that was able to do it for me: Once Upon a Broken Heart


For anyone who hasn’t read these books, this will contain spoilers, so watch out!


Once Upon a Broken Heart, along with its sequel, The Ballad of Never After, can be found in the fantasy fiction section of the library at Dover High. I stumbled upon this book out of curiosity after checking it out for “Date a Book,” February’s theme in the library. Written by Stephanie Garber, Once Upon a Broken Heart is a spin-off of her previous book series, Caraval, which takes place in the same universe. The story features Evangeline Fox, who makes a deal with Jacks, a Fate (aka a god in the Caraval universe). Afterwards, she’s thrown into an adventure of love, lore, and of course, heartbreak.


What makes Jacks, or the Prince of Hearts, such a well-known Fate is both his kiss and heart. His heart doesn’t beat due to the heartbreak that he is said to have experienced. The only way to make it beat again is if he kisses his one true love. The only problem is that whoever he kisses, dies. Not the best Fate to have, huh? Evangeline makes a deal with Jacks to stop the wedding between her stepsister and the love of her life, Luc. In return for stopping the wedding, Evangeline must kiss three people of Jack’s choosing, whenever and whoever he wants. Though after the first kiss, Evangeline starts discovering secrets of the world that she thought she knew and begins to realize she might be much more than she thought. 


Jacks and Evangeline, of course, do not start off on a good note, especially with him turning her remaining family and her first love into statues. Garber makes it obvious that the two are enemies, but she gives us enough information in the first book to lead us to believe that they have the chance to grow into something much more. Their personalities clash so satisfyingly, especially with Evangeline being human and Jacks being a god. Evangeline wants what’s best for both her and the people around her. She holds a love of fairy tales from her late mother and thinks any situation can have a good ending since stories have infinite endings. This is unlike Jacks’s belief, which includes that certain types of people- most notably heroes- don’t get happy endings. They both take any chance they can to tease the other and with clear romantic tension rising in different situations throughout the book. A beloved trope of enemies to lovers is made clear throughout the story.


Evangeline’s first dealt kiss is during Nocte Neverending, which is the Northern tradition for royals inheriting the throne. Nocte Neverending is a celebration that doesn’t end until the prince- Apollo- finds his bride. Evangeline is sent there in place of her empress, and she kindly takes her stepsister out of guilt that she ruined her wedding. There, she kisses Prince Apollo, and he seems to fall madly in love with her. Despite what he had originally said about not marrying anyone and letting the celebration continue forever, he proposes to her the next night, dressed like the archer in The Ballad of the Archer and the Fox, Evangeline’s favorite fairytale and famous for the undetermined ending.


Keep in mind, all that I have said happens in the first 150 pages of a 400-page book, so you can imagine my wonder and curiosity about the rest of the story. 


Garber clearly shows her skill and expertise in writing, using twists and new characters to help Evangeline through a fairytale that spirals out of control. Each character is remembered, and the best part is that none of your favorites are killed off to further the plot, which is a serious pet peeve for former and current book fanatics.


In the sequel, The Ballad of Never After, Jacks and Evangeline’s blossoming relationship is more or less torn apart. She realizes that Jacks poisoned her newfound husband. Before he can even threaten her, Apollo wakes from his near-death state and tries to kill Evangeline, a plot foiled by Jacks. Though afterward, they discover Evangeline and her husband share two curses: the archer’s curse, from the Ballad of the Archer and the Fox, which makes Apollo gain a bloodthirsty desire to chase Evangeline until he kills her, and a mirror curse, which gives both of them shared injuries. Therefore, if Apollo is killed, Evangeline dies. In addition, if Evangeline dies, Apollo dies. 


As a writer, I love The Ballad of Never After. Like the previous book, Garber strings hints together and creates flawless plot twists. You notice things that seem obvious when you reread the book that you couldn’t piece together the first time, which is what makes a good plot twist. Among this, Garber realistically shows the growth in relationships among characters, not only with Jacks and Evangeline, but also with her new friend, LaLa, and others.


This book series isn’t very well known in this school, but people such as Mrs. McKee, the librarian, said the following: “I keep saying how much fun it was to read. I liked the hints of traditional fairy tales with original twists, (which) make it even more exciting. The relationship between Jacks and Evangeline is just amazing. I thought the development of their relationship was very well done. It was truly a book I just didn’t want to put down.”


Throughout the third book, A Curse for True Love, arrives on September 12th of this year, it feels an eternity away to discover what happens with both Apollo, Evangeline, and Jacks. A Curse for True Love will follow both of the doomed newlywed’s points of view, which as far as I know, Garber hasn’t done yet in her books. Though we don’t know much about what’s to come, I do have a few theories about what could happen. One of which is what I know fans of this series are all hoping for: somehow, some way, Jacks will become human again, marry Evangeline, and return and rebuild his home. A happy ending we all dream of for every story.


Something I like to do with the media I like is to make playlists for scenarios I see the characters being in. Songs such as Taylor Swift’s I Know Places, Wonderland, and Don’t Blame me, as well as Arcade by Duncan Lawrence, People Watching by Conan Gray, and Cake by Melanie Martinez are just a few of the songs I can easily imagine the characters of Once Upon a Broken Heart being part of. Especially Wonderland and I Know Places, as they feel like they were written specifically with Evangeline Fox in mind. Arcade as well, as the line “loving you is a losing game” accurately depicts what could possibly happen between Jacks and Evangeline. 


Overall, Once Upon a Broken Heart is a beautiful story full of wonder, thrills, and so much magic. If you love stories with magic and suspense, I highly suggest reading them. Stephanie Garber is an extremely talented writer, and I cannot wait for the final book!