A Heart so Fierce and Broken, by Brigid Kemmerer. Young Adults
This is the sequel to ‘A Curse so Dark and Lonely’, Ms Kemmerer’s epic retelling of the Sleeping Beauty legend (search drop box), but with a great contemporary twist – that of introducing protagonists from our modern world into the parallel kingdom of Emberfall, there to break the curse set by evil enchantress Lilith that turns Crown Prince Rhen into a murdering monster: well, in the best of fairytale traditions, true love in the shape of Harper rescues him from the curse, his kingdom is freed, and everyone should live happily ever after. Except that they don’t.
Rhen has inherited a kingdom in ruins after constant warfare; his subjects are starving, and there are rumours that he is not the rightful Heir: there is an older half-brother whose mother could practice magic, and no matter how hard Rhen’s troops try to quell the gossip it still persists. The only high point in his life is his love for Harper, so-called Princess of Disi, who has supposedly promised thousands of troops from her country: Washington, DC? If his subjects find out about that, it will be the end of his reign – and of him.
Enter Commander Grey, formerly his most loyal and trusted servant: Grey has discovered that he and Prince Rhen are indeed brothers, but he decides the best thing to do is to leave Emberfall and take up another identity; he doesn’t want the crown under any circumstances and the less people know about him, the better. Naturally, life is not like that, particularly in fairy tales: he is captured, cruelly flogged by Rhen’s men, eventually escapes thanks to trusted friends, but is forced into an alliance with Karis Luran, queen of Syhl Shallow, Rhen’s sworn enemy: she will back him with troops and weapons, everything he needs for military success, if he will vanquish Rhen’s army with his nascent magical powers – powers he wasn’t aware that he had until he was flogged by Rhen’s order. Grey is in between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. And to complicate life even further, he begins to fall in love with Lia Mara, Karis Luran’s daughter, a girl as good as her mother is evil: his life is starting to slip beyond his famous discipline and control.
Ms Kemmerer has us all by the scruff of the neck, and won’t let go: I was turning pages at a furious rate, and was even more frustrated when I reached the end and found that an arch-villain, thought dead, is still stirring up lethal trouble. It’s going to take aaaaages for the next instalment to appear, and in Trump’s America, anything could happen in that time. I hope it doesn’t! FIVE STARS.