A Heart So Fierce and Broken: Cursebreaker, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
A Heart So Fierce and Broken: Cursebreaker, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Riveting tale pits love and magic against cruelty and gore.

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Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


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.


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").


As in the first book, "silver hell!" is strong language here. Occasional references to kicking someone's ass.

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.

What 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."

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old June 22, 2021

so I hated this book?

I hated this book. First of all it didn't have any of the retelling aspects that the first one did. It was like the author just wanted to write more books... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byGlasses_Girl February 15, 2021

Really Good

I truly enjoyed Rhen and Harper's story, so I was eager to see what was going to happen in Grey's life. It did not disappoint! I love Grey and Lia Mar... Continue reading

What's the story?

A HEART SO FIERCE AND BROKEN belongs to Grey, the faithful friend and diligent guardsman who, in Book 1, snatched teen Harper from Washington. D.C. to the magical (and cursed) kingdom of Emberfall. But, as Prince Rhen, freed from the curse, is struggling to keep his kingdom together, and Harper is increasingly troubled as he grows more desperate, Grey returns to the kingdom. He keeps to himself the knowledge that the missing heir Rhen seeks to capture and kill is Grey himself. Fleeing Rhen's murderous attack, Grey unexpectedly meets Lia Mara, daughter of the viciously murderous queen who's adding to Rhen's troubles. Only Lia Mara is quiet and kind. Overwhelming forces conspire against these two, but as love grows between them, so does the discovery that they have unexpected strengths.

Which Emberfall sorely needs.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories like A Heart So Fierce and Broken that revolve around royal characters who, for one reason or another, don't want anything to do with the family business. Why do you think this is a popular theme in storytelling? What other examples have you read?

  • One theme that crops up in this series is cultural expectations, and how they sometimes cause people from different cultures, who mean well, to offend each other by accident. Has this ever happened to you? How did you deal with it?

  • One of the things that makes the villains here so creepy is their fondness for torturing and killing people's loved ones (and/or threatening to do so) to terrify them into submission. Do you think it's worse to have your loved ones in danger than to be in danger yourself?

Book details

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For kids who love magic and romance

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