Return to the epic tales of the Magnificent North in Stephanie Garber’s The Ballad of Never After. Evangeline Fox’s story continues in this highly anticipated sequel to Once Upon a Broken Heart. In this fast-paced and romantic follow-up, the magical world introduced in the Caraval trilogy is further expanded upon with some beautiful new locations and gorgeously written characters.
Evangeline Fox is a girl whose life has been manipulated to fit a prophecy, one that she wants no part of. Now that her new husband Apollo is stuck in a suspended state, she finds little choice in ways to save him. Evangeline reluctantly settles on working with the Fate responsible for putting Apollo in a coma in the first place, the Prince of Hearts, Jacks.
Following Evangeline’s journey, the reader is just as curious about Jacks’ motivations while he and Evangeline search for magical stones that will act as keys for the Valory arch. But due to the curse on stories being retold in the Magnificent North, no one really knows what is in the arch. Those who do are unable to say, their words twisted and changed as they speak because of the mysterious curse. Evangeline struggles to find the truth, as even history books will magically change the endings. Readers will be on the edge of their seat during Evangeline’s search, equally invested in discovering the truth behind all of the mystery.
Fans of Stephanie Garber’s previous books will recognize her use of foreshadowing. Careful wording unexpectedly comes back around in ways they wouldn’t have guessed, which makes it all the better. Re-reading will provide multiple moments of realization that certain lines hold more gravity and import than the reader would have noticed the first time.
It’s hard to discuss The Ballad of Never After without talking about its main characters and their chemistry. While the point-of-view we follow throughout the narrative is Evangeline, it is also an expansion on the Fate Jacks, introduced in the second Caraval book. You don’t need to have read the original Caraval trilogy to follow along in these sequels, making it easy to introduce new readers into the world of the novels (though we do recommend reading Once Upon a Broken Heart before picking up The Ballad of Never After). As stated, more of Jacks’ mysterious past is elaborated on in The Ballad of Never After, revealing that he knows much more about the truth of the Northern Kingdom’s history than the cursed stories will allow to be told. In addition to all that, Jacks himself has a mysterious past, something that Evangeline has an inkling of already and wants to discover more about. Jacks is not someone to openly share his history, and Evangeline digging for information is part of what makes their interactions so fun to read. Their dynamic is complicated, Jacks wants to use Evangeline for magic only she has, and Evangeline is reluctantly working with him in part for her own protection. This push-and-pull dynamic is vastly compelling though, and often the heart of the story.
Evangeline and Jacks are not the only characters to shine in The Ballad of Never After. We see a return of other characters from the first book who now play a larger role, both friend and foe. Because this novel deals with Evangeline’s role in a grand and ancient prophecy, many of the supporting characters are immortal Fates (like Jacks) and have their own cryptic motivations in either aiding or opposing our hero-complex protagonist. It is safe to assume that every move from this cast of characters is more than it appears to be.
Stephanie Garber’s Ballad of Never After is near impossible to put down and is an exciting follow up to Once Upon a Broken Heart. Both are available for purchase now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.