Culture Writer Nicole Haynes takes on the Author Spotlight feature and gives a deep dive into one of her favourite authors Stephanie Garber
Studying English Literature has introduced me to a wealth of “literary” texts, but sometimes I just want to curl up on the sofa with a book and escape into another world. Recently, one author has stood out to me as the queen of fantasy romance and subversive world building: the increasingly popular, Stephanie Garber.
Her immersive and extensive world building is a stand out feature of her works that only becomes more expansive with each book she writes. Currently, her five novels take place within the same universe, allowing for deeper exploration of her fantastical world in each book.
With this year’s upcoming release of A Curse For True Love, the finale to her Once Upon A Broken Heart trilogy, I wanted to celebrate this author’s impact on the fantasy genre.
Garber’s debut series introduced readers into the magical world of Caraval. The three books that make up this series, Caraval, Legendary and Finale, follow two sisters who flee their domineering father and escape into the world of Caraval.
Caraval is an enchanting game created by the mysterious Legend with his group of travelling performers. The trilogy follows the sisters as they meet various performers and encounter increasingly magical places.
These books are magical. The narrative is fairly well paced, especially in the final book, and interesting elements are introduced regularly enough to keep a reader engaged. Admittedly, occasional sentences or phrases can feel a bit awkward or comically juvenile, but this honestly just adds to the playful reading experience.
The romance and twists in the narrative make these books compulsively readable. Personally, I think you can notice Garber improving as an author with each book. The first two books follow each sister’s perspective in turn, whereas Finale combines the two perspectives creating a spirited dual-narrative.
Finale is definitely my favourite book in the series, perhaps because it delves away from the game-play formula of the first two books and instead looks at the wider impact of the characters actions and relationships. Narratively it feels most similar to Once Upon A Broken Heart – my favourite book by Garber.
Once Upon A Broken Heart Series
Once Upon A Broken Heart is the book that made me fall in love with Garber as an author. This novel can cure any reading slump due to its fast-paced narrative, intriguing characters and whimsical world building.
Our protagonist, Evangeline Fox, grew up believing in magic and the mythical immortal fates. When she finds herself in trouble, she turns to the infamous Prince of Hearts to make a deal and save her destiny. However, the Prince of Hearts has some tricks up his sleeve, and this is where our story begins.
My favourite read of the year so far, this book brought me back to my childhood love of books and fantasy. Garber’s magical world combines fairytales, danger, romance and fantastic storytelling.
I was beyond invested in these characters – so much so that I immediately bought the sequel, The Ballad of Never After upon finishing the first book. The sequel picks up where Once Upon A Broken Heart Ends, providing even more twists and turns for readers to enjoy.
Albeit embarrassingly, upon finishing the sequel, I needed to take a few days to emotionally recover from the series. From the extraordinary character arcs to the remarkable world-building, this series is pure escapism. Garber has mastered her craft here and I cannot wait for the final instalment.
The highly anticipated final book in the series, A Curse For True Love, is released in the UK in November 2023.
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