September 19, 2021

Book Review: Once Upon a Broken Heart (+ Blog Tour Q&A)

I was excited when it was announced that Stephanie Garber would be returning to the universe that she dreamed up in her Caraval series. There’s so much unexplored potential when it comes to the lore and the setting, so I was eager to see how it would take shape in her brand-new series starter Once Upon a Broken Heart. This novel centers around Evangeline Fox, a young woman who grew up on a steady diet of fantastical tales and surrounded by magical curiosities. She strikes a deal with the Prince of Hearts, a Fate known for his mythic powers and deadly kiss, when she learns that the love of her life is set to marry someone else. The Prince only asks for three kisses in exchange for stopping the wedding, which seems harmless… until Evangeline discovers that his plans for her are beyond anything she could have imagined.

Once Upon a Broken Heart feels like a modern fairytale. While there are recognizable tropes integrated into the plot (a girl who asks tricksy powerful beings for aid, prophecies and stories that may have been buried or misunderstood, political maneuverings and magical events), the way Garber wove them all together felt unique to this tale. In fact, I got swept away by the flow of the story and was content to simply let the story unfold with every chapter. Despite my best efforts, only the most minimal of my guesses about where things would go were right; I was surprised more than once by what did occur.

The whimsical setting of the Caraval series has always been one of my favorite things about it; that's still true of Once Upon a Broken Heart. It was nice to have the familiarity of settings and people that were introduced previously, while also getting an entirely new set of faces, places and magical lore woven into this tale. (Personally, I just might have loved this setting even more -- it is the Magnificent North for a reason.) The whimsy of this world that Garber has dreamed up is delightful and chaotic in turn, and I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in it completely.

What did cement my enjoyment of Once Upon a Broken Heart, however, is our heroine Evangeline (who has tied with Tella for my favorite). She feels so much like a girl I could be friends with, as well as a girl I could be, and that level of personal relatability really worked for me. Evangeline believes in magic and in love; she's brave and stubborn; she may not always make the right choices but she learns from her mistakes; she usually tries to do the right thing. It was really lovely to tag along and see how her story plays out (especially as it wasn't exactly what I anticipated, and I really loved that). I was genuinely rooting for her from start to finish!

I can't forget to mention that I also enjoyed Jacks. Which I never ever thought would happen since he didn't happen to sway my emotions at all when I was reading the Caraval series. But for some reason, in this particular book, I had stronger feelings about him -- confusing feelings (since they're very contradictory), but stronger nonetheless. Strong enough, in fact, that I also care about the outcome of his story and what he's been trying to do. 

Once Upon a Broken Heart was a wonderful, imaginative new novel from Stephanie Garber. While grounding readers with the use of familiar elements from her previous trilogy, she also concocted an entirely brand new story from setting to characters to plot. I really enjoyed myself, though I couldn't have anticipated just how much! It was a really good read, and I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel (and anything else Garber puts out, really).

Once Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart #1) by Stephanie Garber
Pub Info: September 28, 2021 by Flatiron Books
Source: ARC received from the publisher

I was lucky enough to be asked to be a part of the blog tour for Once Upon a Broken Heart! Not only did I receive the ARC for review, but I (along with a few other bloggers) got the chance to ask Stephanie a question. I'm including my question, as well as the ones from the other participating bloggers below.

Your books always read like fairytales (at least for me)! What are your favorite fairytales? (That's me!)

Stephanie Garber: Thank you so much! I love fairytales and I have so many favorites. My very favorite is anything that’s Beauty and the Beast inspired. I love stories that involve truly unlikeable beast-like characters changing as they fall in love, and I’m always sucker for the kidnapped/captive girl trope.

We know the Prince of Hearts, Jacks, plays a leading role in Once Upon A Broken Heart. Can readers expect any other familiar faces from the Caraval series?

SG: I usually try not to answer this question—I like it when people don’t know what to expect. So, I won’t say if there will be any other familiar faces in Once Upon A Broken Heart. But I will say that readers might meet one or two characters who were mentioned in the Caraval series but didn’t actually get any page time.

Why do you love Evangeline and the Prince of Hearts and why should readers root for them?

SG: This is such a funny question, and I feel as if I shouldn’t confess the answer to this because I actually wrote Once Upon A Broken Heart with the hope that readers would feel as if Evangeline should run far away from Jacks, but at the same time really want them to kiss each other.

I love Jacks because he’s pretty much the worst. He says terrible things and he does terrible things—which is why Evangeline should stay away from him. However, I love Evangeline because she’s such an optimist—I love that she believes in love at first sight and happily ever after, and even though she should probably run away from Jacks, I think she’s just the type of girl he needs in his life.

If you could be transported into the world of ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART, what kind of character do you think you would be and would you be easily swayed to make a deal with a Fate? –

SG: Ooh, this is such a fun question. I want to say that I’d make a deal with a Fate because I think it would be interesting and exciting. But, I probably wouldn’t actually make a deal with a Fate because I know it never ends well. I’d most likely stay away from all things Fate and spend time seeing the wonders of the Magnificent North. I’d eat dragon roasted apples, hunt for enchanted books, look for mermaids in the ocean, and hopefully get in a little magical trouble, but not the kind that involves Fates.

Which one of your characters do you relate to the most and why? Are there pieces of yourself in both Evangeline and Jacks? –

SG: There are always pieces of me in my heroines. I think Evangeline has a lot of my positivity and my optimism. I’m hopefully not like Jacks, but I will admit that I do relate to his character. I tend to hold onto things from the past, especially heartbreak, which is something that I have in common with the Prince of Hearts.

Hope you enjoyed the Q&A & don't forget to add Once Upon a Broken Heart to your TBR!


  1. I started reading OUaBH yesterday and I'm already loving it so much! I'm so interested to see if my predictions will come to pass since you said you were often surprised. The Magnificent North sounds amazing and I wish I could visit in real life!

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