Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
Hodder & Stoughton, hb, £12.59
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
When Evangeline’s sister, Marisol, announces that she is getting married in two weeks, there’s only one problem; Evangeline is in love with the groom and, up until the announcement, she had thought he was in love with her too… Her solution? Track down the mythical Prince of Hearts and convince him to stop the wedding. Unfortunately, his methods are a tad unorthodox, and his price of three kisses clearly has its own agenda. The consequences lead Evangeline far from home and playing a deadly dance with a string of powerful men. But in the end, is it the women she should be watching out for?
The premise of the three kisses made for an enticing opening and really helped to keep the thread of the plot together throughout. I love how it takes the age-old trope of true love’s kiss and twists it, and I love how the ‘deal with a devil’ theme is carried out in a fresh way. However, what I love most is the fairy-tale setting of ‘the North’, which is somehow portrayed as being magical and unusual, yet also as normal real life. It produces a whimsical backdrop with sharp-edged undertones that perfectly complements the main character and her tangled situation. When rumours of a prophecy begin to surface, it fits so perfectly into the tone already created that it barely causes a ripple.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this novel is the constant uncertainty of who to trust. Other than Evangeline, whose viewpoint we are closely following, it is impossible to know what the other characters are thinking and planning from one chapter to the next. It doesn’t help that half the characters seem to be cursed for a large part of the book so that their actions aren’t even their own. I found myself constantly second-guessing how they would react if they weren’t cursed or if the curse was lifted – and sometimes, I was second-guessing whether they were actually cursed at all. The biggest example of this is Marisol, who starts out as a fairly innocent-seeming character until her mother’s cruel influence starts to become more and more noticeable. Yet by the end of the book, I still couldn’t decide whether to view her as a victim of a villain. I guess I will have to wait anxiously for book two to find out!