[Book Review] A Heart So Fierce And Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

5/5 Stars

Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.

Rumored to be the heir, Grey has been on the run since he destroyed Lilith. He has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.” – Goodreads

First Impressions

I cannot express how excited I was to pick up this book. I was hooked by the first novel, A Curse So Dark And Lonely, and I wanted to dive into its sequel right away. The cover is beautiful, adorned with raised features and a beautiful background.

Many readers in the bookish community are torn apart by this novel. Half of them loved it and raved about it, while the other half picketed against it. I can see why, having read the novel. However, I was hesitant because I didn’t know if I would be forced to DNF it. I take DNFing a book seriously, especially if I loved the first one.

As with the first one, do not be daunted by its size. It’s a large book, but it reads quickly. I usually read about 50 pages each day, give or take. I was reading 100+ each day because of how addicting this storyline is.

**Note: from this point on, there will be spoilers for A Curse So Dark and Lonely, the first novel. As always, this review is spoiler free for the book at hand, but it’s difficult to write a solid review of a sequel without spoiling the previous book. If you’re reading this review because you don’t know if you should read it the first one, knowing you’ll be pulled into the second, do it! This book is amazing and so is the first one. Trust me.

Main Elements

Plot. Unlike the first novel, this book is plot driven. I think this is why the bookish community is so torn on this sequel. A Curse So Dark And Lonely was about two people falling in love, against all odds. This novel is about the heir to the throne finding his footing. A Heart so Fierce and Broken is not a love story, unlike the first. This is a brutal continuation.

The plot is twisty, unpredictable, and will keep you up all night. It’s also brutal, like I said before. Grey, the previous Commander, is the rightful heir to the throne and Rhen turns into a completely different person out of fear. Fear makes people do crazy and uncharacteristic things, even to the ones they love.

There’s bloodshed and heartbreak, devastation and leadership, romance and lust. There are so many things twisting this plot. Since there are so many variables involved, it’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen next. Warning: you will have a reading hangover at some point throughout this journey, if you decide to pick up this novel (and you should!).

Characters. Again, this is where I believe some people fell off the wagon of loving this series. The point of view shifted. It’s told in multiple perspectives, like the first. However, instead of being inside Rhen and Harper’s heads, we’re inside of Grey and Lia Mara’s heads.

Grey was the Commander of Rhen’s Royal Guard in Emberfall. It turns out, Rhen and Grey are brothers and Grey is the rightful heir to the throne. He’s also a magesmith, which nobody knew about, including Grey. Rhen becomes fearful that his throne is being threatened, so he shows Grey some vicious cruelty. Afterwards, Grey’s faith in Rhen and Emberfall falters, leading him to seek refuge in the one place he would never consider seeking: Syhl Shallow.

Lia Mara is a new character to the series. She’s Karis Luran’s daughter. Karis Luran is the queen of Syhl Shallow, a brutal ruler that everyone fears, including her own daughters. Lia Mara’s character is sweet and kind, but she can be fierce when she needs to be.

Harper and Rhen’s story become sidelined to Grey and Lia Mara’s, which I think is where the split happened in the audience. Some people loved the action that this book brought, while others felt betrayed because they could no longer follow the characters that they fell in love with in the first novel.

Setting. We get to see a new side of the world Kemmerer created as Grey and Lia Mara venture back into Syhl Shallow. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the setting is beautifully represented in this novel. I could easily picture each place they went while reading.

Reason for Rating

I rated A Heart so Fierce and Lonely 5/5 stars because I was one of those people that appreciated the plot driven style. Although, I did feel off-put by the point of view switches at the beginning, I soon fell in love with Lia Mara. I did miss Rhen and Harper, though. Regardless, I thought the story was beautifully plotted with twists and turns I didn’t expect. The characterization was top-notch, which is amazing considering that the novel is plot driven rather than character driven.

For Teachers

I can see a vast majority of your classroom enjoying this novel. Some students may have to push through the first one, depending on their genre of choice. I felt that this novel is well suited for middle school age and up. I don’t like doing literature units on sequels, unless you’ve covered the first one and they loved it so much they wanted to read the second one as a class. Since that doesn’t happen often, I recommend putting it in your classroom library.

As for warnings, there are some suggestive comments here and there. There are also blood scenes, which can get kind of descriptive. It’s not as bad as other young adult books I’ve read, though. No cursing or exceedingly foul language.

Grades: 7-12

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer, the second book in The Cursebreaker Series, was published January 7, 2020 by Bloomsbury YA. According to her acknowledgements page, this was her eleventh book she’s published. To view her other written works, visit her website!


Hi, everyone! I have worked in the field of education since I was nineteen and have a passion for literature. I have five years of experience as a library media specialist (paraprofessional), 2 years as a substitute teacher, and I am currently a general education paraprofessional. I have a Bachelor's in Library Media and Science, which I intend to use to eventually become a youth services librarian. I'm a proud book nerd, writer, gamer, hiker, and baker.

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