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Published: January 2020 - Bloomsbury.
Genre: Young adult / romance / fantasy.
Pages: 464.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Violence. 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are my own. 

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?

I hate that I'm unable to give this book a glowing review. My heart might as well be fierce and broken.

You all know how much I adore Brigid Kemmerer's novels, and how much I adore her writing. Of all the things I expected when I started this book, not loving her writing was not one of them. And it's still good. It is. But it's so much weaker than the prose in her other novels, and frankly I blame the plot. Because of the uncomplicated, one dimensional (sometimes tedious) story, the writing is repetitive. Internal monologues go round in circles, and the characters rehash the same information.

There's also unnecessary, very unlike-Kemmerer melodrama. It's filler; sentences and paragraphs drawn out simply to fill as many pages as possible, and again, I blame the plot. If there had been more stuff happening and thus more to write about, I think the prose could have shone with the profundity, wit, and concision that I've come to expect from Kemmerer. Ultimately, she was betrayed by her own story.

Oh plot. What happened to you? While it's certainly not terrible, it is dull and disappointing. There is so much dialogue (which honestly doesn't accomplish much, either), and the ending (while powerful) is anticlimactic; there's dialogue and compromise when we've been led to anticipate a violent battle, and I found that extremely frustrating. If the rest of the novel had delivered some epic fight scenes and action, I could've forgiven Kemmerer for that ending, but it doesn't. There's a smattering of action, but generally it's avoided. That infuriates me because there were so many scenes with the potential for heart pounding action and physical fighting, the novel's set in a royal fantasy world with tensions and conflicts coming from many different directions, and I wanted Kemmerer to take advantage of all of that. Let things come to a head. Let the characters lose control. Let tempers flare.
But no: everything stays safe and easy. 

One thing I did love about the plot was the expanded world. The settings are gorgeous, and I found the politics, the civilisations, and the different power dynamics irresistible. I can't wait to see more of the world and kingdom in Book 3. It's such an escapist, magical universe.

  "I am crying because you are a prince," I say softly. "And I..." I let out a breath. "I am not a princess."   

Thankfully, the characters are wonderful. I loved being inside Grey's head, understanding him, appreciating how complicated, stoic, and lovable he is, and although initially I found her chapters boring, I grew to love Lia Mara, too. While Grey's the head of the story, Lia Mara is definitely the heart. Her integrity is extremely admirable, she drives a lot of the story's emotional conflict, she brings a ton of humanity to the narrative, and I also related to her personality.

Needless to say, I adored Grey and Lia Mara's relationship. Their romance is a delicious slow-burn and it's so beautifully built on mutual respect and understanding. They truly, deeply, see each other. I find that stunning. Brigid Kemmerer never disappoints when it comes to writing relationships - she balances the swoony with the friendship with the realism perfectly.

I also enjoyed watching Grey and Jake's bromance, Lia Mara's relationship with her sister, and Grey's heartwarming relationship with fifteen year-old Tycho. All of these relationships are entertaining in their own way, and in typical Kemmerer fashion, every secondary character is three-dimensional and compelling, too.

Rhen and Harper aren't a major part of this story. Rhen is practically a villain (and understandably so) and the few scenes featuring Harper give us an image of a girl very unlike the feisty heroine of the previous book. Here, she's quietly trying to keep the peace, placate relationships, and even ends up tip-toeing around Rhen. I know she and Rhen aren't supposed to be front and centre in this novel, but I still expected their personalities to be less insipid. I found their presence underwhelming.

A Heart So Fierce And Broken draws you in with compelling characters, moving relationships, and riveting political dynamics. However, I found the plot and writing lacking.  

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