My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thank you, Bloomsbury, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If you believe you can place a crown on my head and wield me as your puppet, you are very mistaken indeed. — Grey
A Curse So Dark and Lonely is one of my favorite books this year. So far, it’s the only one with a five-star rating. I couldn’t wait to start the sequel because I loved Harper and Grey individually and as a potential couple. The ending of the first novel was too abrupt that I couldn’t get over it even if I wanted to. But now that I have the answers to my questions, I feel a bit displeased.
Before starting A Heart So Fierce and Broken, I messaged Brigid on Instagram and asked if the title was like a promise or foreshadowing of pain. She replied with a teasing wink emoticon. So if you love/ship the same characters that I do, you already know what to expect. Indeed, the Enchantress is dead. However, does that guarantee your preferred happy ending?
Unlike its predecessor, this novel doesn’t focus on Harper and Rhen. Instead, it follows the perspective of Grey and a new protagonist named Lia Mara. Grey is in voluntary exile since he doesn’t want the throne of Emberfall, which is apparently his birthright as Rhen’s older brother. On the other hand, Lia was the crown princess of Syhl Shallow before Karis Luran transferred the crown to Lia’s vicious sister, Nolla Verin. Eventually, Grey and Lia Mara meet and come to an understanding: to spare their respective kingdoms from another costly war, they have to dethrone Rhen.
I liked this book’s take on sibling relationships because it was reminiscent of British/European history; brothers and sisters competing for sovereignty were ubiquitous during the Wars of the Roses. I could almost imagine the Emberfall and Syhl Shallow royals as characters in The Cousins’ War Series by Philippa Gregory. Even though I love stories with strong family dynamics, sibling rivalries fascinate me, especially when they’re done well.
In contrast, I can’t tolerate fictional parents who despise their children. Is the bad parent unavoidable in YA fantasy? For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why Karis Luran treated her daughters like playthings. And speaking of Lia Mara and Nolla Verin, do twin sisters always need to have opposite personalities or appearances? If one is kind, the other should be cruel; if one is pretty, the other should be plain. I admit that I expected more from the author.
Grey was the one who maintained my interest in the book. He was selfless, loyal, and brave. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t want to fight Rhen. Regardless of their differences, Grey and Rhen had much history; they practically went through Hell together. His relationships with Thomas, Jake, and Noah were also meaningful, but they weren’t as strong as what he had with Rhen.
As for Lia Mara, I didn’t care about her at first because she inadvertently stole the spotlight from Harper. Both heroines expressed their strength in different ways. Lia Mara stayed kind in spite of her upbringing, while Harper didn’t let her cerebral palsy stop her from living her life to the fullest. Nevertheless, between the two of them, Harper had more chemistry with Grey.
Overall, I probably would’ve given this a higher rating if the first book hadn’t been such a masterpiece. Harper was barely in the story, Rhen’s character regressed, and Grey…well, he dashed my hopes of a lovely romance. So yeah, my not-so-fierce heart is quite broken. Still, I’m sure that the finale will be much better.