Cover by Heart So Fierce and Broken: A gate in overgrown ivy in a green background with one purple rose blooming.

About the Book

Title: A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2)
Published: 2020
Series: Cursebreakers
Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Cover Story: Secret Garden
BFF Charm: Yay, Platinum
Talky Talk: Winner Of The “Stayed Up Late” Award
Bonus Factor: Found Family
Factor: Surprise Trilogy
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Let’s Get Married

Careful, Sweetie: spoilers! This is the second book in the Cursebreakers series, so if you haven’t read the previous one, you should probably hop back in the TARDIS and go curl up in the library by the pool with the first book before continuing. 

Cover Story: Secret Garden

This looks like an overgrown gate to a long-forgotten garden. It follows similar themes as the first book’s cover, but it feels more lush with the green tones and the rose. I wonder if the third book will have even more blooms.

The Deal:

When we last left the kingdom of Emberfall three months prior, Harper and Crown Prince Rhen had defeated an invading army from the neighboring Syhl Shallow AND the enchantress’ curse that trapped them both. Commander Grey had transported Lilith to Harper’s Washington D.C. where he fatally stabbed her. But before she died, Lilith rocked his world with a life-changing secret: it is Grey, not Rhen, who is the late King’s secret bastard first-born son and, by extension, the true Crown Prince of Emberfall. There’s also magic locked away in his blood, but he has no idea how to access it or if he even wants to.

Grey assumes Rhen will not take the news well that there’s a truer heir out there after he’s fought so hard to become a worthy leader. So he hides out, working at an other-worldly, less sanitized version of Medieval Times, and tries to find a new normal despite missing his friends. Harper is also worried about Rhen, because Grey isn’t wrong—Rhen is terrified at the idea of a magical half-brother out there somewhere and issues a royal decree against anyone who may have “the blood of a magesmith”.

And while all this is happening, the ruler of Syhl Shallow and her two daughters are on their way to Emberfall with the knowledge that a man named Grey knows the identity of the true heir—and they intend to use this to their advantage. The beast may no longer be terrorizing the country, but that doesn’t mean the people of Emberfall are safe…

BFF Charm: Yay, Platinum 

Yay BFF Charm

We get very little of Grey’s perspective in the first book, but now we’re all up inside his head and…it’s a bit dark. Grey is struggling with the enormity of this secret he’s carrying. He has no interest in ruling and misses when he knew his place in the royal guard. While he stuck by Rhen for all those cursed years (I mean, he HAD to, but he did start to feel a kinship with him), he worries that Rhen wouldn’t give him the same loyalty if he found out Grey technically out-ranked him. Those stupid “age is the best indication of ruling ability” rules are so outdated.

While Grey’s reluctance to be honest with Rhen drove me nuts (we were all up in Rhen’s perspective before; I felt he should get the benefit of the doubt!), I couldn’t completely blame him for being cautious. 

BFF platinum charm

In Syhl Shallow, the rules of succession are based on one’s perceived ability to lead and chosen by the current ruler. So while Lia Mara is the eldest princess, her younger, more ruthless sister, Nolla Verin, is the heir apparent. Lia Mara is a different kind of woman than Harper, who is tenacious, a little impulsive, and a quick thinker. She’s studied her whole life to be a ruler and is fond of strategies, books, and fairness. So basically, the exact things her crazy-evil queen mother dislikes. I always find it hard not to fall in love with Kemmerer’s female characters. Lia Mara is strong in her principles rather than her fighting ability, and it’s that strength of character that makes her admirable and way worthy a BFF charm.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

Nolla Verin and her mother see Grey as a means to joining Syhl Shallow and Emberfall in a treaty that benefits their struggling nation. Lia Mara knows that as the spare heir she would not be the one marrying Grey, but she’s starting to fall for him anyway. I love that in Kemmerer’s romances the characters get to know and appreciate each other as equals on their way to love, rather than immediately falling madly in lust with each other’s bods. Add in a sprinkle of star-crossed drama and I am all yours, baby.

Talky Talk: Winner Of The “Stayed Up Late” Award

This was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, so you better believe that I bought it on release day and cleared my evening schedule of anything that would interrupt my reading sesh. I started it…and then kept going, reading way too late into a work night (my productivity definitely suffered that Wednesday). Kemmerer has this way of making a book go down so smoothly. We all have a list of authors who seem to just GET what we want from a story. It’s hard to put into words what makes this book so wonderful. Maybe the great world-building, the fleshed-out characters, the perfect balance of humor and heart? Hmm. Who knows. 

This fantasy has certainly gone past its “retelling” roots and taken on a life of its own.

Bonus Factor: Found Family 

Characters Jen Jack and Grams from Dawson's Creek standing together

Grey and Lia Mara end up collecting a few friends along their journeys; some are new faces, but some are familiar and who we didn’t get to spend a lot of time with before (specifically, Harper’s brother, Jake, and his medical resident boyfriend, Noah, who are trapped in Emberfall because of Grey). I love a good motley crew who, against all odds, begin to care about one another.

While it wasn’t fun, the tension between Grey and Rhen was interesting. These were two characters who, in the first book, became close, and events have transpired to turn them against one another. Some felt it was out of character, but I urge you to finish the whole book before passing judgments (like I almost did). 

Factor: Surprise Trilogy 

Stack of YA book series

It wasn’t until the last freaking chapter that I realized this story wasn’t over. I could have sworn that this was supposed to be a duology. I don’t know if things changed once the first book got popular or if I was just misinforming myself, but that epilogue totes threw me. I’m not mad there’s another book—there was plenty that wasn’t wrapped up—but OMG now I have to wait AGAIN. 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting 

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

Lia Mara’s mother, Karis Luran, is a real pyschopathic piece of work. It’s amazing that Lia Mara was able to grow up with any kind of heart at all.

Relationship Status: Let’s Get Married

I may not come with a castle and profitable trade opportunities for you, Book, but I promise to love you and care for you for as long as we both shall live. Is that enough?

Literary Matchmaking

The Orphan Queen (The Orphan Queen #1)

Jodi Matthew’s The Orphan Queen, unlike Grey, has always known she was royalty in hiding, but the duology has some similar fantasy, found family, and cursed country elements you may enjoy.

The Princess in the Opal Mask (The Opal Mask #1)

Jenny Lundquist’s The Princess in the Opal Mask has more than enough secrets, intrigue, and potential hidden identities if you’re craving such.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1)

And while Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns starts off a bit of a weird concept (and gets way better), I know Princess Elisa and Lia Mara would’ve totally been besties.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my own copy of this book. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. A Heart So Fierce and Broken is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.