A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer – Book Review

Title: A Heart So Fierce and Broken

Series: Cursebreakers #2

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Genre/Themes: Young Adult Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Fairytale Retelling

Blurb from Goodreads

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.

Find the heir, win the crown.

The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumours 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.

Grey may be the heir, but he doesn’t want anyone to know his secret. 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.

My Review

Ugh no.

Talk about utterly crapping all over a perfectly enjoyable first book in a series.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken (AHSFAB) is a giant mess of a book. It’s dull, it lacks originality and it utterly erases the wonderful disability rep that was present in book one, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which was my favourite aspect of that read.

For AHSFAB Kemmerer decided to change the points of view from Harper and Rhen’s perspectives to fan favourite Grey and new girl Lia Mara… BIG MISTAKE!

Grey, or Scary Grey as he was fondly referred to in book one, is given a personality transplant that makes him act all emo as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders …which yes sure it is in a way but the problem is that this emo act was pretty much Rhen’s MO in book one so it’s like why do we need a second moody, brooding male character now???

And we don’t get to see Rhen’s perspective but he pretty much becomes Scary Grey on steroids as Rhen descends into all manner of evilness…. Like great. Let’s have him get all over the top villain-y but let the reader in on the rollercoaster ride that is his descent into wannabe butcher.

And then there’s Lia Mara or should I say Harper 2.0 because she is an identikit character except BETTER….

Harper can wear pants >>> LIA MARA WEARS THEM BETTER!!!

Harper can risk her safety for the greater good >>> LIA MARA WILL RISK HERS TO AN EVEN GREATER EXTENT!!!

Harper learns how to use weaponry >>> GUESS WHO LEARNS TO DO IT EVEN MORE EFFECTIVELY???

Harper is super smart and intuitive >>> WELL LIA MARA FIGURES OUT THE IDENTITY OF THE HEIR IN AN INSTANT!!!

Harper has a disability that restricts her movement and causes her pain >>>> LIA MARA ….

Oh wait. Lia Mara doesn’t which is why she’s able to lift great weights, ride through difficult terrain, traverse forests…. Is that why Kemmerer felt the need to replace Harper??? Because she couldn’t figure out how to get her disabled character to be an action princess? Or am I too cynical…

But to me not seeing Harper’s perspective in this book was an egregious error.

There’s so much disability erasure in popular culture today and where A Curse So Dark and Lonely triumphed was through Harper’s in your face disability rep. I wrote a full review of book one explaining my feels about it that you can read here. But suffice to say Harper was sassy, brilliant and in complete ownership of her identity in book one whereas here… she was neutered. I felt like what little we did see of her character was almost a complete rewrite. She just turned into a simpering side character that mooned over her boyfriend… if we had seen some chapters through her eyes we could have understood how she got to this lovesick place. How she had been made to feel so helpless and such a passenger to the main events…

So really the perspective change sucked soooo badly!

I also had a bunch of other quibbles and passages that struck me as feeling rather out of place in the novel:

Chapter 7, Lia Mara’s perspective

”Did you see the way he clutched at that crippled princess?”

I get it. It’s meant to be disparaging but I don’t exactly enjoy reading such descriptors of disability in this day and age.

Chapter 13, Lia Mara’s perspective

”I feel very aware of the slope of my hips and the curve of my breasts.”



Can we not have weird descriptions like this please??? It’s just so… disconcerting!!!!
Pandering to certain fantasy expectations from books that service a male gaze??? It just feels very off putting.

Seriously who thinks about how their hips slope??? I think about my left hip all the time sure COS IT IS BLIMMIN METAL AND CERAMIC AND IT HURTS. Do I think about how it slopes in my clothes??? HECK NO.

Just weird AF.

Chapter 18, Grey’s perspective

”Harper struggles with balance and strength in her left side, an effect of the cerebral palsy she says has challenged her since birth.”

See this is why I get irked by non-Own Voices authors. This could and should be a perfectly innocuous sentence but it’s that “she says has challenged her”…
she SAYS…
I’m sorry Grey. Are you actually trying to speculate in some way that this is only a challenge to Harper, are you trying to dismiss in some way this assertion of hers that cerebral palsy isn’t indeed a challenge to her mobility??? Are you saying that this challenge is somehow in dispute BECAUSE IF YOU AREN’T THEN YOU SHOULD REPHRASE THAT SENTENCE YOU INSENSITIVE LUMP.

Really Kemmerer, I thought as an author she knew better than to throw in poorly conceived statements like that from her characters.

Chapter 44, Grey’s perspective

(mild but completely predictable thematic spoiler)

“Perhaps another man would be using this time to unlace the back of her sleeping shift and cajole her into the bed, but that feels insincere. I do not like the idea of sneaking into her luxurious prison to take advantage of her. This is the first time we’ve ever been truly alone together, and it makes her seem more vulnerable somehow. More precious.”

I’m sorry but what the what now???
Are we supposed to congratulate Grey for keeping it in his pants around his love interest???????? Oh how freaking noble of him to be so restrained…….

And wtf is with this vulnerability crap??? Does that mean he doesn’t see her as the same as him? That she’s somehow less than because she’s a delicate little flower of a girl! Toss off. Let Lia Mara decide if she wants to screw you or not. Don’t be so self congratulatory for being so *noble* and not actually seeing this woman as your true equal.

I have many more gripes about this book regarding:

  • [1] poorly constructed supporting characters (Jake, Noah, Tycho, Iisak),
  • [2] ridiculously stereotypical villains (can we all lol at the melodrama surrounding the Queen of Syhl Shallow Karis Luran),
  • [3] an insufferably over the top case of sisterly love despite all evidence to the contrary…apparently when you embroider a cushion for someone you *love* that excuses your complicity in murder……
  • [4] it being a book that just tears down the plot of book one in a celebration of bland, formulaic writing rather than continuing to develop said plot in bold and fresh manner,
  • [5] and then there’s all that occurs in the epilogue and how it’s entirely laughable and doesn’t make up for the trainwreck that has preceded it as many plotholes have the potential to be poked in book three…

So the question is will I read book three?

Absolutely not.

I do like to read series to completion but I can only see this frustrating me further. This series could have been wrapped up in two books if not one. Stretching it out to a trilogy just feels excessive to me.


Other Works by Brigid Kemmerer I’ve Reviewed

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26 thoughts on “A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer – Book Review

  1. Yikes. I personally enjoyed reading this book, but after reading this review, I feel like I’m going to have to rethink my opinion of the series.

    I would never have picked up Kemmerer’s insensitive treatment of Harper’s disability in this book is without your review. Reading it from this perspective, I can definitely see the problematic way it’s written. That just shows how important #ownvoices is.

    I’m glad I stumbled on this review, Emer. Thank you for challenging the way I think about this book and this series! ❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you for your lovely comment Abby! I certainly don’t write Kemmerer off as an author or anything, but I do question her thought process as to how the optics of her main character focus would look especially when she wrote Lia in such a similar fashion to Harper. If Lia had felt significantly more different than Harper and wasn’t that same “not like other girls” stereotype this could have worked better. I’ll still read book 3 though. I’m curious as to how it will all pan out lol 😂💚❤️🧡💛💖💙💜

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I missed this when you first posted but I’m glad I found it now. I am so disappointed that it’s not any good and some of your direct quotes made me CRINGE.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Sooo, I’m going to say it and say I did not like book one *shocking faces ensue* xD so honestly thanks for the review of book 2 and now I know I didn’t miss anything good haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked book one because of the disability rep but still only gave it a three star rating as it was quite predictable / similar to other fantasy etc so I can see how you did not enjoy it as you read a lot more fantasy than I do and your patience would be limited lol!!! But you definitely did not miss anything good Joanna XDDDD

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Awww it always sucks when a sequel lets you down! Great review though, you make loads of salient points, and the excerpts you’ve included are…strange. Especially the sloping hips one. Wtf?? And I thought we were done with the whole this-girl’s-better-than-THAT-girl trope but no, apparently.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I completely agree with everything you said! I didn’t enjoy time either and it didn’t deserve the hype it got! I kind of wish ACSDAL stayed as just one book.

    Liked by 1 person


    Ahahahaha, that made me laugh so hard. Wonderful review, Emer! I’d really like to try A Curse So Dark and Lonely, but I definitely won’t be trying this book afterwards. It’s a shame Kemmerer ditched her original heroine for another one.

    Liked by 1 person

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