The Ballad of Never After
- Author: Stephanie Garber
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: September 13, 2022
- Publisher: Macmillan Audio
- Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart #2
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing me with an ARC of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: blood, murder
Not every love is meant to be…
After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she’ll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.
But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.
Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can. . . .
There’s something addictive and alluring about Garber’s writing that has me hooked and coming back time after time. Her stories have this dreamy, fairy tale quality that transport me out of my mundane, everyday life into a fantasy world where magic exists and Fates walk among the people, making deals that never work out as expected. A place where dresses are gorgeous and there are fabulous parties full of all kinds of outrageous things. And that’s just part of what keeps me reading.
The other part is the fantastic stories. I was on the edge of my seat after the ending of Once Upon a Broken Heart, since Garber tends to end her books on a bit of a cliffhanger, so it was a relief to get to start this story right away. It picks up right where the previous book ends, but naturally, things get worse for Evangeline. While she’s trying to reverse a curse with her own newly discovered magical abilities, she realizes that someone put a new curse on her, and even worse, it forces her right back into a dangerous partnership with Jacks, who she was hoping to avoid.
Over the course of the last book, Evangeline relied on her head and her heart to guide her path. But in this book, there’s a magic that interferes with both, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. She’s torn between what she wants and what she thinks is right, and her quest forces her to cross lines that she swore she would never cross. I loved seeing her journey even more in this book, because it gave her an even new depth of character. It made her more relatable, since she was pushed into difficult decisions. While they’re more extreme than real-life situations tend to be, the fallout from them were similar to the emotional reactions us mere mortals experience when we’re experiencing mental conflict from crossing our own moral boundaries, which does happen.
The story kept me hooked from beginning to end, despite my one pet peeve, which is the outlandish similes (he looked like heartbreak, it tasted like fresh-fallen snow and hope, it smelled like glitter and possibilities). I’ve grown to let those slide, even though I do flinch a little at how often those appear. Since I received an ARC of the audiobook version, Rebecca Soler did an outstanding job as narrator. Her voice was exactly as I had pictured Evangeline’s when reading the first book in the series, managing to convey both youth and naïveté, while maintaining the perfect amount of tension throughout the story.
As expected, the story wraps up beautifully, while still leaving us with a cliffhanger ending that has me sitting on tenterhooks for the final book in this series! I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Although I figured out one plot twist beforehand, I’m still thoroughly satisfied with how suspenseful the story was and how things worked out. I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing how everything resolves for all of our characters, including Jacks, but especially Evangeline, who is now torn between a few different potential outcomes.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 8
Categories: Book Review