It’s funny how I reread my review on “Once Upon a Broken Heart (OUABH),” and I was going to start this one saying the same things. The fact is I feel almost the same way by the end of “The Ballad of Never After” (TBONA) as I felt when I finished book 1 in this series. Therefore, my fellow reader, I’m sorry if I sound repetitive, but I have to say what I have to say.
Let’s try to use the same order as in the previous review. You can check both side by side to see the parallelism. If you’re a fan of Disney princesses and stories, then this book might be for you. You’ll find a damsel in distress looking for her happily ever after. You’ll still find an Evangeline more in love with the idea of feeling cherished than with the romantic notion of falling for the love of her life. Towards the end, I believe she starts understanding that it’s not the same to love ‘the one’ than to just fall for the safety and comfort of shared feelings with anyone. The intensity, the rightness of a true love isn’t the same as infatuation or hoping for the best with a pretty face.
“…Evangeline didn’t want love that made sense, she wanted love that made her feel, love that made her want to fight and hope for the impossible.”
This said, the whole romanticism in this book was lacking for me. You want to fall in love with a couple. You want to see how the enemies turn to lovers, how they overcome their fears and differences to be together. You must have guessed it after reading OUABH. There’s chemistry between Jacks and Evangeline. If you’ve read romantic novels before, you know more often than not the antagonism and indifference are the sure signs of the opposite coming along. However, it gets tiring how the two of them keep fighting against their relationship. Apart from Jacks curse—his kiss will supposedly kill all but his one and true love—there’s not much explanation why “not every love [meaning theirs] is meant to be.” There are hints at the most, but it’s still too ambiguous, and we are already at book 2.
I believe, going back to the quote, we’ll see that fight for the impossible in book 3. I think Stephanie Garber, following her writing style in this series and all the talk of hope and happy endings, will aim for an epic drama. Jacks and Evangeline will sure have a steep climb to reach their reward. And, yes, you heard that right. There’s going to be another book.
See there in her Instagram post? I’m not going to spoil the end, but I can tell you there’s no way this is a duology.
Moving to Evangeline, there wasn’t a significant curve or evolution of her as a character in this installment. Just as in OUABH, I still find her incredibly shallow. That’s why I keep coming to this image of her as a Disney princess. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with the picture. However, if you enjoy fierce female warriors, independent fighters or even damsels in distress with sustenance, you’ll find Evangeline exasperating. This quote from the book summarizes her:
“Evangeline was not too proud to admit that she was easily dazzled. She liked pretty stories and pretty things, and this young man was far more than just pretty."
Now, some of the mysteries in book 1 were answered in TBONA. There were new puzzles thrown into the mix, of course. So, if I’m honest, I was left with more questions than answers, once again. The same sensation of seeing the story move forward and at the same time going in circles was present. Moreover, there are things I found hard to believe or understand. For instance, there’s a secondary character who appears in specific and intentional moments of the story. He is not nobody, but not someone exactly special. Suddenly, he reappears at the end of the story as the new key to all, apparently. How did he go from point A to point B? We didn’t get to see that arch. So how is it possible for someone, who hasn’t shown any evidence of greatness, develop mysterious powers and feelings that led him to make certain crucial decisions at the end and become such an important character now?
As I said, there are still too many puzzles. Not only that, and I’m going to use another example because I find this so funny. I stumbled upon this Instagram post the other day…
Guess what? You’ll still won’t know the significance of the apples! For real? This is all you’ll get:
“I was just wondering why you always carry apples.” Jacks chuckled under his breath. “Trust me, Little Fox, you’re better off not knowing.”
I’ve left the best for last. They are actually two more examples (but there are more) of inconsistencies, if you may, things that are hard to chew. When I think of the “Once Upon a Broken Heart” series, I imagine putting all Disney stories in a mixer and pouring the result in pages. There are bits and pieces everywhere that reminisce all those fairy tales we grew up with. That said, how is it that if Princess Donatella wasn’t killed by Jacks kiss—meaning she is, according to the story, his one and only true love—they are not in love with each other? Is this Garber’s way of breaking the status quo and everything you know about the literal meaning of true love?
Also, you know there’s talk of a prophecy involving Evangeline. According to Merriam Webster, a prophecy is “a prediction of something to come.” Again, I don’t know if this was meant to break patterns, but how is it that our characters have to make things happen in order for Evangeline to fit her prophecy? I mean if she is the prophecy, shouldn’t things happen as it was foretold on its own, without others twisting destiny so that she can become a princess or any of the other parts of the prophecy? It doesn’t feel as a prophecy if she doesn’t reach her purpose by the sole reason of existing. Her birth, her hair color, etcetera should have signal the beginning of a prophecy about to be fulfilled. The rest shouldn’t have been forced.
After all there is to say, I guess patience is the only remaining thing to hold on to. We’ll have to wait until Garber announces what will hopefully be the final sequel, so that we can make sense for once and for all of this convoluted story.
❤️ Enjoy this review?
Come back next week for a new review, or Subscribe if you prefer get it in your Inbox instead.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.