A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Almost all the story takes place in a fantasy kingdom, but there are many opportunities to consider issues like, say, how to unify your kingdom and other tactical issues. There are also moments highlighting cultural differences and how they interfere with communication, as in a scene where a man offers a woman his jacket because she's cold and he's being kind, and she tells him that in her culture it's rude to notice someone's weakness -- i.e. that they're cold -- let alone try to do something about it.
Strong messages of love, friendship, loyalty, courage, kindness, responsibility, leadership, and creative problem-solving -- pitted against and sometimes overwhelmed by dark forces and vicious cruelty.
Positive Role Models
Dual protagonists Grey and Lia Mara are driven by an extreme sense of duty and self-sacrifice that leads them to feats of great bravery, especially when it comes to looking out for others for whom they feel responsible. They, and a supporting cast of their friends, are complex, nuanced, and strongly bonded. Villains, on the other hand, have either a cold indifference to the suffering of others (especially when they're causing it) or an absolute delight in gore and bloodshed.
Violence & Scariness
Physical and psychological violence are everywhere in A Heart So Fierce and Broken. Before the story's even underway, the first book's main character announces plans to kill his half-brother, the daughter of a murderous queen orders the killing of an unfortunate father and daughter who have wandered into their camp, and an innocent bar patron is arrested and run through with a sword when he tries to escape. And that's just the beginning of the hacking, slashing, blinding, and more in this gory tale, including one episode where a man is tortured and mutilated, then restored by magic, only to be tortured and mutilated again. Some parents are perfectly willing to murder their children for political gain. The massacre of Grey's family in the past is mentioned several times.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's a lot of romantic tension leading up to an intense kiss and a night of strong bonding but no sex. A princess who's a dynastic pawn says she can "bed a man without liking him" (though she and her sister both admit they've never done any such thing). A matriarchal ruler finds a different guy every time she wants to have a child. Various characters are part of couples, straight and gay. A tween character implies that he sold himself into indentured servitude to save his sisters from being sold into prostitution to pay his father's gambling debts (although he doesn't come out and say "prostitution").
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In a medieval-ish world, adult and teen characters drink wine, ale, etc. at social gatherings, meals, etc. One character has no tolerance for wine and avoids it, but bonds with another character over a bottle of liquor, getting a bit drunk in the process.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Heart So Fierce and Broken is the sequel to Brigid Kemmerer's dark, thrilling Beauty and the Beast adaptation, A Curse So Dark and Lonely. It follows the meeting -- and growing attraction -- between Grey, the heroic guardsman of Book 1, and Lia Mara, the studious, kindhearted daughter of a queen who pretty much massacres people for fun. And power, of course. Grey and Lia Mara will need all the courage, self-sacrifice, and wisdom they can get as they go up against a villain so vile that in one scene she tortures and maims a man, forces a character to heal him with magic, and then tortures and maims him yet again. The main and supporting characters are complex and compelling. The evil forces they're up against, and their violent ways, are almost over the top. An innocent bar patron is run through with a sword, and that's just the beginning of the hacking, slashing, blinding, and more in this gory tale. There's a lot of romantic tension leading up to an intense kiss and a night of strong bonding but no sex. Adult and teen characters drink wine and ale at meals and social gatherings. Strong language is limited to "silver hell!" and kicking someone's "ass."
Is It Any Good?
Compelling characters, ethical dilemmas, budding romance, and thrilling adventure abound as heroes battle dark forces in the kingdom of Emberfall. The spotlight shifts here to guardsman Grey, returning from self-imposed exile to help longtime (and formerly cursed) Prince Rhen while concealing the fact that he's actually Rhen's elder half-brother. For good reason, because although Grey wants no part of being king, Rhen's getting more and more unhinged trying to find and kill the unknown heir -- and that's just one of the fraught, complicated relationships in this adventurous, imaginative page-turner.
A Heart So Fierce and Broken's heroes are often overwhelmed by the shocking level of vicious, cruel violence the villains dish out, and readers with a low tolerance for gore will be right behind them, even as they're cheering for Grey and Lia Mara to somehow beat the odds. A cliffhanger ending leaves new trouble brewing and much in doubt.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.