A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer was all I wanted it to be and more

Title: A Heart So Fierce and Broken
Series: Cursebreakers #2
Publication: January 7th 2020, Bloomsbury
Pages: 445 Pages, Paperback
Source: Library
Rating: 5/5 cupcakes

Find the heir, win the crown.Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Harper has freed Prince Rhen from the curse that almost destroyed his kingdom. But all is not well; rumours are rife that there is a rival heir with a stronger claim to the throne and that 'Princess' Harper of Disi is nothing but a fraud.
Grey has fled the castle carrying a terrible secret. When he is discovered by soldiers and returned to Ironrose by force, Grey's allegiances begin to shift. And as he grows closer to an enemy princess, he is forced to decide whether he will stand against Rhen for the crown he never wanted.

I thought I had posted a review for A Curse So Dark and Lonely (which I LOVED)  but I hadn't. I was sorely disappointed to realise that, as I would've liked to refresh my memory of what had occurred in the first book. Past Kyra, what were you doing?

I was so excited when my reservation of this came in. A Curse So Dark and Lonely was one of my favourite reads of 2019 and I was impatiently waiting for the sequel. A lot of series have second-hand book syndrome where the sequel is somewhat lacking but that wasn't the case with this at all. In fact, I think I loved this more than the first book. It was compelling, exhilarating, fierce yet vulnerable. It was every good adjective I could possible think of.
In A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Grey was pretty much my favourite character. He's so complex and has this strong, unshakable exterior but he's so vulnerable and gentle on the inside. I absolutely loved getting a whole book that featured him. He's such an amazing character and I'm a little bit in love with him. He's stoic and fair and compassionate. He's incredibly strong but acts with such grace and gentleness when necessary. I loved watching him gain confidence in himself and come to acceptance of his status. I can't wait to see how his character evolves in the third book. His character development in A Heart So Fierce and Broken was noticeable as well and written excellently. He still had the traits from his years as a guardsman but other attributes that had been oppressed throughout the years were coaxed out by Lia Mara.

That brings me to one of my new favourite fictional female heroines. Lia Mara is a new character we're introduced to: the daughter of Karis Luran, the brutal leader of Syl Shallow. We were acquainted with in book one. At first I was wary of her for two reasons: 1) she's the daughter of a bloodthirsty ruler and 2) she's not Harper. I LOVE Harper and I was initially quite disappointed that Lia Mara had significant page time BUT she ended up becoming one of my favourite characters. She's an incredibly well-written character and a strong female protagonist that could very well be a new literary inspiration. One of the qualms I used to have with YA is how the female protagonists were only seen as strong if they could be brutal and daring. Lia Mara isn't brutal or super confident or daring, instead her strength lies in her compassion, kindness, quiet determination and tactics. She could defend herself and be physically strong when it was required, but she would rather be sitting in her room reading (lol same). It was quite heartbreaking seeing her underestimate and undervalue her talents because it didn't match her mother's criteria for being the perfect heir and perfect daughter. I loved how quietly and effectively she tried to steer her country to a more peaceful position. She's an amazing character and her and Grey complimented one another so well. MY HEART.

I adored Tycho too. He is such a sweet, loyal, brave character and must be protected at all costs. Iisak is also a really interesting character. I hope him and his background gets explored more in the next book. I loved that Jacob, Harper's brother, got more page time and I enjoyed seeing more of his character too. Although Rhen and Harper weren't in the book much, they did get some page time. Rhen...well, he disappointed me and I'm feeling quite conflicted towards him. He seemed cruel and fearsome in a way that I hadn't expected to see but based on how the book ended, I think the reasoning behind it will, not justify, but explain what persuaded him to do the things he did. I also really grew to love Nolla Verin, Lia Mara's sister. She seemed vicious and cold, but like Grey, a lot of it was a front. Glimpses of who she really was shone through the chinks in her armour and I enjoyed reading about her growth and evolution throughout the book.

Brigid Kemmerer expertly developed the characters we loved in the first book and introduced new characters that stole my heart. They were incredibly well-structured and multifaceted, displaying juxtaposing characteristics of strength, weakness, gentleness and brutality that accurately describes the contradictory condition of our human hearts.
Moving onto my favourite aspect of books beside characters...relationships! I appreciate it when authors can create genuine relationships between characters that depict the frustrating, magical nature of relationships. A Heart So Fierce and Broken shows relationships of varying diversity: romantic relationships, friendships, parent/child and sibling relationships and everything in between.

I enjoyed the friendship dynamics that were explored in this book. Friendship wasn't heavily focused on in the first book but it was here. I adored Tycho and Grey's brotherly relationship. It was wonderful to see the vulnerable, protective nature of Grey explored more. Their bond was so lovely; seeing the evolution of their loyalty and trust was so heartwarming. I also enjoyed seeing the friendship between Grey and Jacob. They were, understandably, wary of one another in the first book but after going through the events they did, it formed a bond between them that was realistic and well- written. 

The author also explored the dysfunctional relationship between Karis Luran and her daughters. She's the brutal, cruel leader who instills fear. She pits the daughters against one another and thinks the more ferocious you are, the better. I really liked the relationship between Lia Mara and her sister. Despite their differences and the mother's desire to separate the girls, they remained as close as ever. It was a complex relationship but I loved how the author handled it and how she wrote the shifting dynamics between the sisters. 
The romance between Grey and Lia Mara was INCREDIBLE. They complemented one another perfectly. I loved how they both could be what the other needed. Grey saw and appreciated Lia Mara's intelligence, her love for her people, and strategic thinking. He believed in her when she couldn't believe in herself. I loved how she could be gentle with Grey and inspire him to utilise his power to make a difference. They just understood each other and brought out the positive attributes of one another and I JUST LOVE THEM SO MUCH. 

I won't speak too much about the plot as this is a spoiler free zone. I absolutely love books that focus on politics and strategising in a fantasy setting and this book definitely featured that. The stakes were high; it was fraught with tension. There was instability, uncertainty and struggle for power that I watched unfold with baited breath. There were several scenes that had my heart in my throat because of the unpredictable nature and motivations of some of the characters. This book was incredibly gripping and it completely sucked me in. Ignore my Goodreads that says it took me a month to read this (well, technically it did, because I was trying to finish up four books but I digress). I read roughly 120 pages in one sitting and finished the rest in another two sittings. It's riveting, gripping, and heart-stopping.

I loved the writing too. I came to the realisation that Brigid Kemmerer's writing style is one of my favourites. She manages to write in a way that is fluid and engaging, using description but not to the point of it being pretentious. The dialogue is authentic and it too is written in a way that leaves it free from awkwardness or a stilted rhythm. Her writing is effortless, magical, and wholly compelling. It's so easy to just fall in her books.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken is one of the best books I've read this year, and I doubt any other book can top it. Poignant, gentle, fierce, and thrilling, A Heart So Fierce and Broken snatched my breath away. From heart-thumping action, political tension, incredibly complex characters and a stunning romance, A Heart So Fierce and Broken is a firm favourite. 

It had me spellbound.