ARC Review: Once Upon a Broken Heart (#1) by Stephanie Garber

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Goodreads | Pre-order on Waterstones

Evangeline Fox was raised in her beloved father’s curiosity shop, where she grew up on legends about immortals, like the tragic Prince of Hearts. She knows his powers are mythic, his kiss is worth dying for, and that bargains with him rarely end well.
But when Evangeline learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, she becomes desperate enough to offer the Prince of Hearts whatever he wants in exchange for his help to stop the wedding. The prince only asks for three kisses. But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’s pledged. And he has plans for Evangeline that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…

Thank you so much to Hodder for sending me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Caraval remains to be one of my favourite books, but sadly Legendary and Finale didn’t quite meet my the same 5 star rating. Which meant I was all the more curious when it came to Once Upon a Broken Heart. Would it have the same magic as Caraval did the first time I read it, or would it feel lacking like the rest of the series?

I have to say, this one didn’t let me down. Following a new point of view of Evangeline worked really well, and this one felt so different to the world of Caraval. Even though the world did feel familiar, it only made the whole reading experience reminiscent of being wrapped in a warm blanket. Stephanie Garber has used the story of the fates from Finale and expanded on a completely different side of it, which felt so clever and I really enjoyed reading it.

I really liked Evangeline as a main character and it was interesting to see a different relationship between two sisters, much like Scarlett and Donatella in the Caraval trilogy. We definitely glimpse some of the magic I felt with the original books, and it shone through in the location and my personal favourite parts – the animals and food. I always feel like food makes me feel so grounded in a story, and this one was no different.

I felt so enveloped in this story and struggled to put it down. Stephanie Garber has a knack of keeping the reader completely on their toes, and I read this over 2 days because it was so easy to read and absorbing! I’m so excited to be part of this new story and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Just a note to say although this story is a brand new series, I would recommend reading Caraval first. You certainly don’t have to and there is only minor spoilers for the original trilogy, but I would still say you’ll get more enjoyment out of the book by reading it after the Caraval trilogy.

★★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Finale (#3) by Stephanie Garber

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Goodreads | Waterstones

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates have been freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella has seen Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.
Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finaly, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.
Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun―with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything.

I feel so torn about this ending to one of my favourite series at all time. I still really enjoyed this book, it just let me down slightly once again when I compare it to Caraval. I have been reading this series alongside Alex, and we’ve had some really interesting discussions about these books. Alex mentioned how these books feel like the author had an amazing idea and gave it all to the first book, meaning the other two are slight let downs and feel slightly forced.

However, I did still enjoy this a lot and I did enjoy it ever so slightly more than Legendary. Legendary was told from Tella’s point of view, after Caraval was told from Scarlett’s. However, Finale has both of the sister’s points of view, which I really liked. Throughout reading Legendary, I wasn’t aware I missed Scarlett’s narration. However, when I started Finale, I found I had missed Scarlett’s narration and the quirks that came with it.

Occasionally, there are minutes that get extra seconds. 

I enjoyed the plot of this one, although it did still lack a little something that Caraval had. I also felt that the two sister’s had kind of similar plots and explored similar themes throughout this book, which felt a little confusing and fell flat for me in places. Although I did enjoy reading both of their plot points, I just wish they had a few different elements to tell them apart more clearly.

I loved the setting of this one and I did find it a little more vivid than Legendary. It definitely did feel slightly reminiscent of the first one and the magical, captivating setting of the game of Caraval. This one did have a similar atmosphere that I appreciated, but was still a little lacking in comparison to the first book.

I really love the sisters as strong female protagonists throughout these books, and I also love how Stephanie Garber manages to write character’s and then completely change our opinions of them as the reader. I also want to point out how easy all of these books are to read, which is great for fantasy!

Moments so precious the universe stretches to make additional room for them.

Overall, these books are honestly brilliant, and I am so sad this one wasn’t on par with Caraval. However, I still love this series so much and the first book is one of my favourite books in the world. These are brilliant introductory fantasy reads with strong female characters who I really adore!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Legendary (#2) by Stephanie Garber

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Goodreads | Waterstones

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.
After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.
The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

I’m so glad I decided to re-read this. I read Caraval when it came out, and read Legendary when it came out too, and something just felt missing to me. I decided I wouldn’t risk leaving the same gap with Finale in case that was the reason I didn’t feel so captivated by this, and am finally reading them all back to back with Alex. And although this one definitely doesn’t capture my heart in the same way as Caraval, not leaving a gap between them definitely helped!

This book follows Scarlett’s sister, Tella, in the next game of Caraval. I really like both Scarlett and Tella as main characters, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed to follow her for a while. Both the sisters are strong female characters and Tella is especially ruthless, knows what she wants and isn’t scared to get it. This story is definitely more character heavy than Caraval, which is weirdly one of the ways it disappointed me.

Every good story needs a villain.

One of the things I adore about Caraval so much is the location and the setting heavy style of the writing. I feel as though Legendary goes away from this a little and focuses more on the characters instead. And although I enjoy the mix of both, I did miss the vivid descriptions and way of picturing the scene. I also really liked the romance in this one, and I feel like Stephanie Garber writes romance really well and does an amazing job of capturing your heart with characters you’d least expect.

The plot was definitely one of the best parts of this book. I didn’t find it quite so enthralling as the first one, but I still found this super easy to read and get into, and it was very readable. Learning about the wider world of Caraval and exploring some of the other relationships outside of the one’s already mentioned in Caraval was really interesting. The character dynamics were well written and I enjoyed reading about them.

But the best villains are the ones you secretly like.

I do still feel like this book is lacking something in comparison to Caraval, a kind of vibrancy in the descriptions. So although this is still a super enjoyable one, I couldn’t help but feel ever so slightly let down. We’re reading Finale next for the first time and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it is!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Caraval (#1) by Stephanie Garber

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.
But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.
Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic.

This was my second time reading Caraval and I will be honest, I was a little hesitant going into this for the second time. The first time I read this, I hadn’t read a lot of fantasy and this provided a brilliant introduction to the genre. However, years on, I was worried I wouldn’t be quite as blown away by this as I was the first time. I wasn’t quite as blown away, which does make sense as I was obviously a bit aware of the plot from the first read.

I was still super impressed with this the second time. Although it is still a brilliant introduction to fantasy, it doesn’t feel in any way inferior because of it. I found this super easy to read and such a page turner, and is such an easy-going fantasy. It is so intriguing and captivating to read as the world is so involved and magical.

Hope is a powerful thing. Some say it’s a different breed of magic altogether. 

The setting is definitely my favourite part of Caraval – it has an amazingly written setting and is very location heavy, which I loved. I pictured this world so clearly and vibrantly because of the setting. The world of Caraval and the game within it is so magical and enthralling. This series is like no other in the fact it is set within a game – the closest book I can think of is The Night Circus.

The way this book is written including a game is so impressive because as the reader, you never know what is real and what is part of the game. Even the second time, I found this such an amazing way of writing because I never knew what would happen at the end of the game and was so captivated by the plot because of it. The plot was so twisted, dark and full of secrets of and lives.

Elusive, difficult to hold on to. But not much is needed.

I adored this book once again the second time around and I am so happy. I once again absolutely fell in love with the enchanting plot and beautiful world I could picture so well. The characters are brilliant, and I love the strong female leads throughout this series in Scarlett and Tella. I can’t wait to continue with my re-read and first time reading Finale!

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Stacking the Shelves #29

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga where we share books we’ve bought or received this week. Find out more and join in here!

Hi everyone and welcome to another week on Stacking the Shelves! This week, I received a preorder and Blue gave me a book in exchange for a few things, thank you Blue!

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.
There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.
Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.
El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.
Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.

This is the book Blue gave me as they decided it didn’t sound like something they would enjoy, so handed over the Illumicrate edition to me! It’s so pretty and the naked hardcover is lovely too, and it sounds like something I’ll love.

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Goodreads | Book Depository

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over. But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

I also had a pre-order for this special edition of Caraval. I love this book and I already have a couple of editions of it, so I couldn’t resist this one. It is so beautiful and comes in a red slipcase!

What have you bought recently?

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Legendary by Stephanie Garber

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Goodreads | Amazon

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.
After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.
The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.
Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

I loved this book. But did it capture my heart? Not exactly, and that little fact makes me want to cry. You see, Legendary, for me, had a hell of a lot to live up to. Caraval was something extremely special, and it absolutely captured my heart. When I finished that book, I made mood boards and playlists. It made me feel like magic was really woven between the beautiful paper pages.

And although I still really loved and admired this gorgeous book, I don’t feel as though my heart has been captured right now. It’s really hard to describe what was wrong here, but I’m going to try. For a start, it took me a week to read. And yes, that’s a personal thing, and I have a lot on my mind at the moment, but I just didn’t feel as though I needed to be inside the pages of this book all the time. Trust me, there were parts when I couldn’t stop reading, but it wasn’t so constant.

“Her heart was still a little heavy,”

Let’s talk about the things I love. Well, I love Tella. I felt as though there has been enough space between the first book so I wasn’t too sad about missing Scarlett as a narrator, and I really liked Tella’s character. She just felt real – she had her own difficult decisions and confusion and she didn’t always know where her life was heading. I loved her struggles and her torture, because it made her the relatable and lovable girl she is.

I also really enjoyed the story and other characters. I liked the way Legendary explores Tella’s relationships and friendships with not just her mother but with many other characters. They provided a really interesting development for me, and I did want to read on to find out which paths Tella was about to choose. Can I just also mention something? THE LOVE. AHHH. Okay. So Garber still leaves me shipping couples, and the romance was definitely the best part of this book for me. God, Garber knows how to write romance and kisses.

“but she’d decided carrying it around would only maker her stronger.”

So thinking about all this, compared to other books, this one could easily be 5 stars. However, I can’t help but compare this to Caraval. And that makes me feel as though this series has just lost it’s vibrancy. I really wanted more vivid descriptions of the world and game itself, as I remember Caraval being very setting heavy. And that’s the reason why, I’m sorry to say, I’m going to give this one…

★★★★
4 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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