Now Reading
Book Review: The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

Book Review: The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber is one of the most loved authors in the YA fantasy world. Her irresistible blend of whimsical storytelling, high stakes romance and morally grey characters captured hearts with the original Caraval trilogy and then, more recently, with last year’s Once Upon A Broken Heart – a spin-off series centred on a new heroine but with the all-too familiar, all-too wicked antagonist, Jacks. Now Garber’s back with a dazzling sequel filled with magic, mystery, curses, reckless decisions and more heartbreak than our poor fantasy loving hearts can take.

Picking up where OUABH left off, we’re reunited with Evangeline Fox as she searches for a way to break the curse on her husband Apollo, who’s secreted away in the depths of the castle, whilst she also tries to stay away from the scheming Prince of Hearts. But Jacks, in typical Jacks style, has no intention of leaving Evangeline alone, and when a murderous new curse is revealed, they’re forced into a tenuous partnership that tests both their resolves. Jacks might have historically proved to be the tricksiest, most treacherous of all the Fates, but with new stakes, old friends and formidable foes to battle, he might just be the only one Evangeline can trust.

Never mind that the odds were not currently stacked in her favor, not with all the curses and betrayals and murderous, lying princes. None of that meant she was doomed. Evangeline still believed that every story had the possibility for infinite endings, and she was going to find one of the good ones—”

The Ballad of Never After is a book of unadulterated enchantment – from the frosty fairytale setting, to the glittering gowns and revelries, to the divine magic flowing through the characters’ veins. Whether it’s Evangeline’s newfound gift for opening locks, Jacks’ fabled deadly kiss, or the eerie supernatural abilities of the vampires, this is a story that sparkles with magic from beginning to end. It’s impossible not to fall under Garber’s spell as she weaves a tale of danger, love, tragedy and happy ever afters. And one of the best things about this book is that, despite its central character’s belief that happy endings are possible, it never feels like a given. Garber keeps us hanging on each page and guessing after each chapter’s end, just hoping that Evangeline and Jacks will find a way to break the curse.

But the absolute best part of this book – and indeed all of Garber’s books – is the romance at the heart of it. Evangeline and Jacks have had a combative relationship since the beginning – in no small part due to Jacks’ villainous nature – but the chemistry between them has always betrayed their true feelings. The Ballad of Never After allows both characters to soften towards each other, creating a perfectly tantalising will-they-won’t-they situation that’s complicated further by the constant awareness that Jacks kills every girl he ever kisses. And he absolutely wants to keep Evangeline alive.

As the first instalment in what’s now looking like a trilogy, Once Upon a Broken Heart was a book of introductions and tightly held secrets. The Ballad of Never After is a book of continuing mysteries and surprise revelations – rewarding readers with answers to some of the overarching plot’s most pressing questions: what’s really locked beyond the Valory Arch? Who is Chaos behind the mask? And perhaps the best reveal of all, who was Jacks before he became a Fate? But Garber holds enough back, and offers up a devastatingly open-ended conclusion that hints there’s still so much more to come. When a fantasy world is as beautifully built as this, I’d be happy for it to never end.

See Also


The Ballad Of Never After is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 13 September 2022

View Comment (1)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.