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Thursday, April 23, 2020

‘A Heart So Fierce and Broken’ Curseworkers #2 by Brigid Kemmerer

From the BLURB:

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

Grey may be the heir, but he doesn't want anyone to know his secret. On the run since he destroyed Lilith, he has no desire to challenge Rhen--until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother's violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

‘A Heart So Fierce and Broken’ is the 2020 second book in Brigid Kemmerer’s ‘Cursebreakers’ series – that will have a third book out in 2021, ‘A Vow So Bold and Deadly.’

So; much as it had the traditional problems of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (I don’t want to use the term “Stockholm syndrome” because – surprise sexism alert! – it has a really awful genesis and no grounding in science, which is something I literally learnt yesterday!) I really loved first book ‘A Curse So Dark and Lonely’. I actually loved first book so much, that when I began reading ‘A Heart So Fierce and Broken’ I was a little bit bummed to realise that this second book is no longer using Rhen and Harper’s alternative POVs, but instead we have King’s guardsman Grey (and recent revelatory heir to the throne of Emberfell) and newcomer Lia Mara, daughter to the rival Syhl Shallow Kingdom as the new protagonists.

Harper and Rhen appear briefly at the start and awfully, in a totally new set-up for their character’s trajectories but then we go off and follow Grey and Lia Mara on their journey to escape increasingly terrible soon-to-be King Rhen and the royal legacies Grey doesn’t want, and Lia Mara has been denied as the first-born daughter who is not the chosen Queen successor.

I was really worried when I started this book that I wouldn’t be able to get into it, and then that’d be all the steam gone out of my sudden reading-surge pulling me out of my slump. But then somebody on Instagram encouraged me that they had enjoyed this second book more than the first, so I put aside my curiosity about what Rhen and Harper were getting up to and actually found myself getting caught up in the on-the-run story of Grey, Lia Mara and co. and the romance that slowly develops between this reluctant usurper and overlooked Princess.

I think the ultimate strength of Kemmerer’s book is that it doesn’t feel like filler, it actually all feels like it’s winding towards a fabulous cliffhanger to then launch us into a really complex third book, ‘A Vow So Bold and Deadly’. And I’ve gotta say – the cliffhanger in ‘Fierce and Broken’ is even better than the one at the end of ‘Dark and Lonely’, and I already thought that was pretty genius.

Third book is coming 2021 (so far AWAY!) and I am really looking forward to whose POV we’ll be getting (my hope and assumption is Rhen and Grey, and if that’s the case I’d actually be super keen to read a little flip in the typical fairytale-retelling that sees the princes and men pull focus and have to learn love and risk-avoidance at a time of potential war.)  

I am so enamoured of the ‘Cursebreakers’ series and what Kemmerer is doing here, with considerable skill and flair. This feels like the freshest take on fairytales that I’ve read in a long while, and a lot of that comes from the gender-flipping and playing that she’s working with and just generally the fact that she’s an A++ storyteller. I cannot wait for Book No. 3 – 2021 has never felt so far away with the way 2020 is going, but I can be patient and in the meantime I might go back and re-read Kemmerer’s ‘Elementals’ series just to keep this ball rolling!


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