Look, my week was going just fine, okay? Then, NetGalley let me know that I'd been approved for an audiobook ARC of The Ballad of Never After. I loved the Caraval series, but hadn't made it to Once Upon a Broken Heart on my TBR yet, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to prioritize that.

I listened to both over the past two days, and heartbroken doesn't even begin to cover it.

Once Upon a Broken Heart, the first in this series which is a companion series to Caraval, follows Evangeline Fox and her encounters with beloved fan favorite, Jacks, Prince of Hearts. Those who have read Caraval will know that Jacks is a Fate, and his kiss is deadly to all but that of his one true love. He is every bit the brooding, sarcastic, touch her and die character that made you swoon in Caraval, but elevated to new heights. I don't want to say Stephanie Garber is a sadist, but I'm saying that her books are A Series of Unfortunate Events for grown-ups. She gives you just enough to think there might be hope, but is there? Read it and find out!

Then, it was time to listen to The Ballad of Never After and I'll start by saying that when this audiobook ended, I did three things:

  1. screamed at the narrator (okay, at my phone) when she said, "we hope you have enjoyed this..." as if the heart and soul hadn't just been ripped from my body and stomped into gravel,
  2. sat on the floor staring blankly at the carpet wondering what I did to deserve this pain,
  3. took a long shower and sobbed while screaming along to "All Too Well (Taylor's Version)," doing what I could to drown the sorrow.

It was wonderful. I know, you know, we all know that as readers, we're gluttons for pain and suffering, and Stephanie Garber delivered it in droves. Just when you think you know what's going to happen, YOU DON'T, and Stephanie has a way of writing characters that are at once so relatable but also so maddeningly oblivious that I found myself at times screaming out loud for a character to do a certain thing, or not do something, or berating them for something they'd just done.

I haven't had an emotional reaction like this to a book in months...probably since The Starlight in the Shadows (blog coming soon on that one!) and it was cathartic, even though I still feel hollow. 

I realize that this really hasn't been a "review" at all and more just me mindlessly prattling on about my feelings, but it's because my heart has been shattered. In the best way. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.