Spin-off Saturdays: Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

Once Upon a Broken Heart Series is a spin-off of the Caraval Series



SERIESous’ Top Picks: To-Watch Author
Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart

This is a spinoff of the Caraval Series.

Author: Stephanie Garber
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single (#1-2); Multiple (#3)
Publication Date: September 2021 – October 2023
Source & Format: Public Library—Audiobook

WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!


**This post was originally published as a standalone review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

My Expectations?

Well, I knew that there was going to be a spin-off of Caraval eventually but I kinda forgot that fact when I picked up this book. It didn’t take long for me to clue in and I was excited to dive back into this fascinating world Stephanie Garber has created…and see a few old friends along the way!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

–Twisty Though Not as Suspenseful–

I had a hard time putting down Caraval when I read it and while this story was engaging, it didn’t have the same thrill level for me. There are plenty of twists along the way to be sure but I felt like everything moved at a gradual incline to the big finale. That made the last third of Once Upon a Broken Heart (#1) super engaging but I wasn’t as WOWed as I could have been.

–Sister Dynamic–

At the core of Caraval is the love between two sisters and the lengths they will go to save each other. Here, we see a different side to the sister dynamic and I really enjoyed watching that play out. It was very reminiscent of the original series but entirely unique at the same time.


I’ll admit that the finer details of the Prince of Hearts is lost to me but I do know that I enjoyed his character immensely in both series. He’s still the enigma of a Fate but I feel like we might be seeing his true side come to the surface.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

–Slow Start–

As I said above, it took me a will to get into this. I think in Caraval we get thrown into the game right away but Evie is still trying to figure out her role so it takes her a bit to realize she is a player.

–Craved More Romance–

Perhaps I read too much into the gift of “three kisses” but for a story with the title “broken heart” I did crave more romance and sexual tension.

My Audiobook Experience:

I read the original series but decided to try the audiobook this time around and I really enjoyed it. It was easy to follow along and, as I often do with audiobooks, enjoyed the hearing the emotions of the characters brought to life. Even with it being a third person POV, I easily connected with Evie’s emotions.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m very, very curious to see how this all plays out now that the players are making their moves!


–December 22, 2022– Book #2: The Ballad of Never Ever

I’m not sure how I feel about this installment. The last quarter is great but I think that’s because we actually accomplish something with the story. Things start to fall into place as we build up for the finale. I wanted a little more from Evangeline in this one. Plus, I think it’s a me thing, but I see ZERO chemistry between her and her love interests. Maybe that’s the point? I feel like there is supposed to be this lingering tension but it just feels forced to me.

–February 28, 2024– Book #3: A Curse for True Love

So I forgot the bulk of the series so far but read very thorough recaps of Book #1 and #2 at Book Series Recaps. That was helpful because I find the entire plot of this series is convoluted with the various characters and curses. And despite the many layers of the world and plot, I would still say I was bored for most of this book. I think this is one of these series that you need to binge because there are so many details that it’s hard to keep it all straight.

But I think the thing I’m disappointed in the most is the romance. I just didn’t feel these two together at all. And when the core of this story is true love and curses, it better be epic and I better feel it in my soul. Alas, I did not.

Series Rating: 3/5

Once Upon a Broken Heart 4/5 | The Ballad of Never Ever 3/5 | A Curse for True Love 3/5


With a gradual crescendo, fans of the Caraval Series will appreciate the return to the magical world; and those new to the world will enjoy this story of devious Fates. However, I think it is best you binge this series and read the books as close together as possible to keep all the finer details straight.

Read if You Like: high fantasy, omnipresent beings, riddles
Avoid if You: want more romance



Synopsis for Once Upon a Broken Heart (from Goodreads):

How far would you go for happily ever after?

For as long as she can remember, Evangeline Fox has believed in true love and happy endings…until she learns that the love of her life will marry another.

Desperate to stop the wedding and to heal her wounded heart, Evangeline strikes a deal with the charismatic but wicked Prince of Hearts. In exchange for his help, he asks for three kisses, to be given at the time and place of his choosing.

But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that bargaining with an immortal is a dangerous game—and that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’d pledged. He has plans for Evangeline, plans that will either end in the greatest happily ever after or the most exquisite tragedy….

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