Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber (book review)
GENRE: YA Fantasy
LENGTH: 406 pages
Evangeline is heartbroken when her first love, Luc, becomes engaged to her stepsister, Marisol. Believing Luc is under a curse, she makes a deal with the Prince of Hearts, Jacks, to stop the wedding. She soon learns just how high the price of love truly is.
There are quite a few characters but I'm solely going to focus on the most important ones; our protagonist and her enemy turned ally turned potential love interest, Jacks.
Evangeline is, like myself, a true lover of fairy tales. Unlike me, however, she's also a romantic and ever the optimist. She has this sweet innocence about her that makes her quite endearing. Her hardships just make you root for her all the more.
Jacks has a character archetype that I have a soft spot for. He's the guy that comes across as cocky and cruelly playful but in reality it's all just a cover for his unhealed emotional wounds. He also has that whole he's a bad boy but he's soft for her only personality that can make a girl swoon.
Evangeline and Jacks don't actually get together romantically in the novel so it can't technically be classified as enemies-t0-lovers. That being said, it's quite obvious that there is a developing chemistry between them. Enemies-to-lovers is a delicate balance when it comes to romance tropes so I appreciate Garber not rushing into anything and giving them time to transition. They are very much opposites but they work together because both are drawn by the same force: the desire for true love.
The novel is told from the third person perspective of Evangeline. There are a few different mixed media elements included, but the main one comes in the form of gossip columns. In one of my other recent reviews (for Hotel Magnifique) I mentioned how I think mixed media in fantasy can increase a reader's immersion into the world and that holds true with this book as well. I actually grew up having a super guilty pleasure of reading gossip magazines (something I share with my late great-grandma) so I got a chuckle out of reading these parts. The columns do play an active role within the novel as they disseminate vital information to the characters.
This novel series can stand on its own but it's important to note it takes place within the same world as Garber's debut trilogy, Caraval. It spoils the fates of the main characters from those books so I'd advise reading them first if that's something that would bother you. As someone who hasn't read Caraval I can assure you that the plot, world, and characters were all easy for me to understand and follow along with.
This novel reads like a fairy tale. It has this frosty enchantment that is positively spellbinding. I got lost in this world and was saddened when I had to leave it. I look forward to returning soon as the sequel releases this coming week. I already ordered it as soon as I completed this book.
This novel has narrowly usurped Vanessa Len's Only a Monster to become my top fantasy of 2022 so far. If you like fairy tales and trickster boys then you won't regret picking this book up. I wish I had read Garber's work sooner. but better late than never!
FINAL RATING: 5⭐️