Book Review: The Ballad of Never After


I was really eager to read The Ballad of Never After after falling in love with Once Upon a Broken Heart last year. It was already incredibly exciting to return back to the whimsical, magical universe that Stephanie Garber brought to life in her first trilogy then; after absolutely adoring the first part of Evangeline's adventures (including her entanglement with a certain Prince of Hearts), I was chomping at the bit to get more of her story. In this follow-up, Garber successfully manages to tell an even more incredible, compelling tale -- and it's easily my favorite of her published works so far!

This second installment picks up at pretty much the exact spot where the first novel ends. Our heroine Evangeline Fox is now swept up in a world of curses and prophecies, and it's up to her (perhaps with the help of allies, some welcome while others are not-so-welcome) to uncover more truths and figure out how to break curses in order to save the day. I'm sorry to be a little vague with the summary, but I definitely feel like this is one of those sequels where it's best to go in not knowing too much (and it also is even better experienced as a back-to-back read with the first book). I certainly had no idea what to expect, except perhaps for more of Garber's whimsical world and her fairytale-like storytelling (which is what I did get, but more on that shortly). 

I said it about the previous book, but it's still very much true about this sequel: The Ballad of Never After feels like a modern fairytale. The familiar tropes and twists are ever present in the tale, from the character types, plot elements and story progression. But Garber puts that all together in a way that still feels fresh and organic to the actual story she's telling. The two novels very much work together to feel like they are part of one bigger story, and I love that! 

I loved this second book so much. One reason for this had to do with the storytelling -- from the way that the world of the Magnificent North expands a touch more to the well-paced cadence the plot adopts as it unfolds. There's even more whimsy and magic, more delights and dreads, and it all just popped off the page in the way I've come to love from Garber's work. It was also fun to pick up on all the hints laced throughout the narrative, and to try to figure out which ones were truths and which ones were simply there to throw us readers off the scent. Garber had a clever hand in weaving those bits in, as I genuinely could never be sure what to expect. And the plot kept me hooked too, as I was constantly on the edge of my seat wondering what troubles and triumphs Evangeline would face next! I seriously couldn't set it down past a certain point because I just had to know exactly what would befall our heroine next, and the turns and reveals felt well-earned and well-placed each and every time.

Evangeline Fox has cemented her place as my favorite Garber heroine, and she happens to be another reason I adored the book. I was still Team Evangeline, as I wanted so badly for her to succeed and to find her own happiness. The girl deserves it after everything she's gone through, that's for sure (and especially after the events in this sequel!). She's still harboring the fascination with magic, and belief in love and happiness; she's still stubborn and a touch reckless and determined to make her own way. But her kind, soft heart; her indomitable spirit; her fearlessness; her desire to be loved and belief that everyone deserves a chance -- it's all still as appealing and charming as it was when I first met her, and I adore her to pieces.

There are many characters that I enjoyed seeing again or meeting for the first time in this sequel, but the only other character I really feel deserves to be mentioned is, of course, Jacks. While the contradictory, confusing feelings about him still lingered throughout the story, the truth is that by the time I hit the very last page, I couldn't deny the fact that I cared about him. He's obviously flawed, and he's got some deep-seated issues that result in questionable choices; but he's also got a heartbreaking past, a deep sense of loyalty and devotion, a wicked sense of humor and a talent for banter with our dear Miss Fox. He reminds me, in a lot of ways, of the complicated, messy antihero (somewhat akin to Klaus Mikaelson, who happens to be one of my favorite fictional men), so it's really no surprise that he's wormed his way into my heart.

(P.S. Speaking of Klaus, I have always loved his relationship with Caroline on The Vampire Diaries. And the relationship between Evangeline and Jacks in this one gave me similar vibes with the push-and-pull, the undeniable tension and chemistry and the characteristics of the individuals involved. -- it's the first time I've ever encountered the dynamic captured in another piece of fiction in the way that specifically hooked me with TVD and I'm thrilled about it.)

The Ballad of Never After was a lovely follow-up that didn't hold back on delivering the swoons, the thrills and the fairytale whimsy. I already knew that I was going to enjoy this sequel even before I picked it up, but I'm even more pleased to be able to say that I absolutely loved it! I'd highly recommend picking up this sequel if you loved the first book, and if you haven't read that book yet, pick up both for sure on release day. (And if you have read it, come find me on Instagram so we can chat about the ending! Okay? Okay.)

The Ballad of Never After (Once Upon a Broken Heart #2) by Stephanie Garber
Previous Book in the Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart
Pub Info: September 13, 2022 by Flatiron Books
Source: e-ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)

4 comments

  1. I loved this one too. The way the world expands is really not to be beaten.

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  2. I am SO EXCITED for this sequel! I loved "Once Upon a Broken Heart" so much.

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  3. I like to read books like that. The plot of the book is interesting.

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