Title: A Heart So Fierce and Broken
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
I enjoyed A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the first book in the Cursebreakers trilogy, but I loved A Heart So Fierce and Broken. This is the middle book of a trilogy – a notoriously difficult book to write – and it is more compelling, more interesting, and less predictable than the first.
The first book explored the story of Beauty and the Beast, following Prince Rhen of Emberfall; Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard; and Harper, the girl Grey kidnaps from Washington DC in an attempt to break the curse. It was an intense story, centred on Harper, Rhen, and the royal palace, and constrained by its fairytale inspiration. The second book leaves the expectations and conventions of the fairytale behind, and explodes onto the page with new point-of-view characters, new settings, and hook that takes the story in an exciting new direction.
Maybe it’s because fantasy isn’t my favourite genre, or perhaps it’s the in-depth insight into the wider world of Emberfall and Syhl Shallow, but I found myself drawn into this book from the beginning. There’s less of a reliance on magic and curses, and more on the mistakes the characters make, and their tangled motivations and allegiances. It’s a political story instead of a fairytale, and I loved every twist and turn of the plot.
Most of the story is told through the eyes of Grey, who stood with Rhen through the years of his curse, and Lia Mara, daughter of the queen of Syhl Shallow. Syhl Shallow needs to conquer or ally with Emberfall, and the threat of invasion hangs over all the characters – royal families, soldiers, and citizens. The stakes are high, the fear feels real, and small actions have devastating consequences.
I loved seeing Emberfall and Syhl Shallow from Grey’s point of view. His familiarity with his own country is contrasted strongly with his impressions of its neighbour – its buildings, its people, and its queen. Lia Mara’s chapters give the reader a refreshing outsider’s view of Grey and some of the other characters from the first book, helping to build them into rounded, relatable people. The world is carefully described, highlighting the differences and similarities between Syhl Shallow and Emberfall, and between the palaces and streets in both countries.
It is a joy to follow the characters as they try to negotiate and manipulate for the outcomes they need. There are strong themes of duty, family, and friendship running through the book, and the story works best when these threads collide. The twists of the plot ensure that this happens often, pitching characters, siblings, and rulers against each other, each one working for their own version of a greater good.
This is a clever book, with a shocking and engaging finale, followed by a tantalizing setup for the third instalment in the series. I can’t believe I have to wait until January to find out how this ends!
Have you read A Heart So Fierce and Broken? What did you think of the story? Do you prefer the fairytale retelling of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, or the political twists of this book? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!
Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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