Stephanie Garber’s sequel to Once Upon a Broken Heart came out September 13, 2022, and The Ballad of Never After is worthy of all the praise it has received thus far. The sequel picks up right where the first installment left off and relays the same exciting tale of Evangeline Fox and the Prince of Hearts, Jacks.
As in any tale, our favorite characters are met with conflict and, hopefully, resolutions. It is from engaging with and reflecting on these stories, that we, as the readers, are presented with an opportunity to grow ourselves. As George R.R. Martin once said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
Evangeline Fox is the main character of The Ballad of Never After, which comes with many ups and downs throughout the novel. However, one could argue that she handles her obstacles with determination while wearing her heart on her sleeve.
Hurt by Jacks’ actions in the first novel, Evangeline searches for a cure to save Apollo, despite her lack of knowledge of curses. Even though she is aware that Apollo’s love for her was spell-induced and he might not return his love without the spell, Evangeline still hunts for a possible cure because she knows it’s the right thing to do. Only when she has exhausted all of her resources, does she cave into Jacks’ plan in order to save Apollo.
Also, throughout the novel, Evangeline is determined to learn more about the world of the Fates. Evangeline grew up with the tales of curses and ancient myths, however, she didn’t come face-to-face with proof until the beginning of the novel. That is not to say that she gives in to her lack of knowledge, but rather this motivates her to learn as much as she can about the Fates and the stories surrounding them. Throughout the novel, she is constantly reading cursed texts and unraveling the Fates’ past.
After teaming up with Jacks again, Evangeline finds herself caring for him. Despite his careless and cold demeanor, Evangeline cannot help but feel for him. Instead of viewing his actions as simply that, she continues to dissect who he is under his masquerade and addresses his actions with a wider lens.
Evangeline’s kindness shines throughout the novel, but another notable application is when LaLa confesses her sins pertaining to the Archer’s Curse. Even though her friend betrayed her and she spent a few chapters despising Lala for her actions, Evangeline considers her friend’s curse as the Unwed Bride and forgives her for her actions.
Despite all of the hardships she has faced in life and continues to face, Evangeline is a dreamer and romanticist. She toys with the idea of types of love and seeks love like her parents had before they died. Her thoughts give in easily when in the presence of the mirth stone as she considers a life with Jacks. It is under the influence of the mirth stone when she weighs her love for Apollo against her love for Jacks, which she seems to consider in terms of their story.
In fact, Evangeline seems to consider life as an epic story. She frequently references her mother’s quotes on how life and fiction intersect. In the end, Evangeline’s dreamer attribute helps her understand the Fates’ world since she is able to view all of her theories as possible, which leads to her uncovering the past of Jacks, Lala, and Chaos.
As Evangeline acts with her heart as her main motivator, we can do the same. Next time you are faced with an issue, take a moment to ask your heart how you feel. While it might be good to act with logic, sometimes we need the influence of our feelings and ideals. Give into your impulses to live and act with your innate intent.
Instead of assuming the world is out to get us, we might take a card from Evangeline’s deck and consider the situation from someone else’s point of view. When you are faced with a conflict with someone, take the first step toward resolution by considering the situation with their ideals and feelings in perspective. As humans, we make mistakes, and sometimes it is best to work toward a resolution rather than fermenting in our disagreement.
As there are ups and downs to our life, we can easily get stuck in the downs. Instead of focusing on your life within the moment, view the world as Evangeline would. More often than not, Evangeline considers how a bad situation does not lead to a bad ending and stories always host the opportunity to throw a curveball at the protagonist and antagonist alike. In other words, take a moment to look at our physical and mental surroundings and regard them in the third person. How would a writer set up for the next chapter?
Jacks is both the love interest and supporting character, however, he is sometimes categorized as the antagonist in The Ballad of Never After. While it is easy to categorize Jacks as careless and cold, it is thanks to Evangeline’s kindness we are introduced to the positive attributes Jacks tries to hide.
As we discovered by the end of Once Upon a Broken Heart, Jacks planned out the entire plot of Evangeline’s story due to her being the key. Despite his plan being littered with hurdles along the way, he still found a way to conquer them and collect all of the stones. Even though Jacks’ persistence wasn’t answered until the end of the novel, he didn’t seem to waver.
While Jacks’ playfulness and light-heartedness are viewed as a nuisance in Evangeline’s eyes, it is easy to view his attributes as positive from the view of the reader. Where someone might act with stress and worry, Jacks is able to keep a light demeanor, which protects Evangeline from additional stress. With as much heartbreak Jacks has gone through in his immortal life, it is only fitting he is able to relieve the burden of grief and pain.
Contrasting Evangeline’s romantic attribute, Jacks is calculating. Instead of acting on impulse, Jacks works solely for his one mission of obtaining all the stones. Throughout the novel, it is revealed how each and every move he has made has been for this purpose.
There are only two situations where Jacks acts on impulse. In one situation, he falls under the overwhelming influence of the mirth stone, which he only wakes from due to Lala and Chaos warning Evangeline of its presence. The other situation is the traumatic event of Evangeline dying in his arms, which might have to relate to the impulses he has been suppressing throughout the novel. In other words, both occasions relate to Evangeline, who we can only hope is his one true love.
When you have a goal as defined as Jacks, make sure to dedicate yourself fully to seeing it fulfilled. As humans, we are constantly pursuing some form of growth, so it is only fitting to determine what your overarching goal is and pursue it. Everytime you are met with an obstacle, don’t view it as a dealbreaker, but rather a minor setback that deserves your full attention.
Not only does Jacks’ playfulness relieve Evangeline from unnecessary stress, but it also reduces Jacks’ own stress. Instead of being entirely serious about your work, throw in a bit of play in order to keep things lively and unstressful. Chances are that when you relieve yourself from the restraints of all “work,” the energy you exhaust on stress will be repurposed to motivation.
As Jacks acts with purpose, learn from him and exercise your own consideration and evaluation strengths. Next time you are met with conflict or unease, make sure you are considering all of your possibilities and contemplate the results of each of these options. Only when you are sure of your path, act with purpose.
Ariel “LaLa” Lagrimas
Ariel “LaLa” Lagrimas is Evangeline’s best friend in The Ballad of Never After and the Unwed Bride Fate. Due to her tragic past and her being a Fate, Lala is plagued with acting according to her curse and with the influence of her own story. However, all of this ties back to Lala’s bold personality that positions her as a predominant supporting character.
LaLa is sure of her actions and acts with purpose. She loves to be the most memorable person in the room and loves when she attracts the attention of the press. LaLa is introduced in Once Upon a Broken Heart as the most memorable person at the ball and then cements this observation as she dances alone.
Despite being cursed as the Unwed Bride, LaLa still finds ways to enjoy life and even love. She is set to marry Robin Slaughterwood despite knowing that her curse will not allow her to see the marriage through, but she still follows through on the proposal since the joy of the party overpowers the outcome.
While “emotional” is often regarded as a negative trait, it can be seen in a positive light when applied to LaLa. She feels her heartbreak to such a degree that she cries poison tears, but it is these extreme bouts of emotion that give LaLa strength in herself. Instead of suppressing her emotions, she expresses them without a filter and is able to process them at an excellent rate.
Specifically, when LaLa confronts Evangeline about her mistake of cursing Evangeline and Apollo, it is only a few chapters after Evangeline walks out of LaLa’s wedding. This leads the reader to believe that LaLa went through all the emotions necessary to reach an apology within a few chapters.
As humans, we are so quick to regard ourselves as unworthy of attention or appraisal, but learn from LaLa and enter a room knowing your worth. Next time you are presented with the opportunity to wear your usual simple dress or to break in that cocktail dress that has yet to see the light of the day, choose the latter. People are more likely to notice you if you give them a reason to.
Even when things are beating you into a pessimistic outlook, fight against them and stay positive. Despite LaLa’s tragic past and curse, she doesn’t let it get in the way of enjoying the present. At the end of the day, we remember the extremes of life, so it is only fair to weigh the scale in favor of positives.
Next time you feel the need to cry into a pillow, hysterically laugh, or yell into a void, do it. The body needs to process emotion and if it is balling inside of you, it will only fester. Be as confident in your body’s requests as LaLa and let it vent in the way it must.
Addition to a Reader’s Thousand Lives
Between Evangeline, Jacks, and LaLa, The Ballad of Never After presents many traits and lessons we can learn from the cast. Make sure to store away these character cards for motivation when you need them most. You can find copies of all the cards on Pinterest, or you can simply download them from the post itself.
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Thank you so much for reading and I hope you are able to shelf this novel on your own “Thousand Lives Shelf”. If you learned any other lessons from this novel, please comment on who taught you a valuable lesson, and who knows, others might have also noted the same lesson.
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