Fantasy isn’t just for geeks

Photo by Ginane Deslauriers

Book Review: A Curse for True Love.

A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber is the last book of the trilogy, Once Upon a Broken Heart, rich in magic and fairytale elements that awakens your inner child. It is part of the many fantasy novels and series that have gained immense popularity recently. 

According to a recent study, 85.6 percent of participants who read gravitate toward fantasy or science fiction, which could explain why fantasy has been gaining massive popularity. Concordia master’s student Dimana Radoeva in the Individualized Program (INDI) and English professor Stephen Yeagen share their extensive fantasy knowledge and dive deep into its structure, role and impact. 

A Curse for True Love was published on Oct. 24, 2023, and concludes the trilogy. The story revolves around Evangeline Fox who is searching for her true love in the Magnificent North. She seems to have finally found it, yet she doesn’t remember much since she woke up in Prince Apollo’s arms, her supposed husband. Evangeline is trying to find out more about her missing memories but Apollo is adamant about keeping her in the dark and to ensure it stays that way, he must kill the series’ beloved character Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. 

The final book started quite slowly since Evangeline was lost trying to remember who she was and what her life had been like before. However, as she discovers the truth and recovers her memories little by little, the pace picks up. I was expecting more plot twists and more drama, and I also believe that the ending seemed too easy. However, it fits into the fairytale concept (spoiler alert!) because it all ends perfectly well; the villain gets his bad ending and the protagonist gets her happily ever after

According to Radoeva, “[fantasy] is inherently a medium that people believe is unrelatable but the core of that is untrue,” since it focuses on human experience and emotions as well as giving life to our biggest desire. Another misconception both pointed out is escapism through fantasy—the belief that reading fantasy is ignoring what is going on in the role is untrue. 

The reality, Radoeva said, is that fantasy “has helped to be more engaged in social and political,” since it draws inspiration from real social and political issues. A Curse for True Love makes you think how dangerous love can make someone and how far some will go to get what they want. Evangeline choices are taken away from her when Apollo erases her memories because he knows she is in love with Jacks. Apollo’s actions opens the door for further discuss on its ethicality which is what Yeagen believes to be fantasy’s strength; it has the effect of making people argue and discuss it time and again.

Yeagen explained that fantasy is a broad genre, so its structure and purpose are not one-size-fits-all and vary from one fantasy novel to the next. He also said that, “fantasy is the scientific technology that is being considered as history.” In other words, it is the historical version of science fiction, it bases itself on history rather than science. Most of the time, fantasy novels draw inspiration from the Middle Ages or other periods for things such as fashion, food, hairstyle and more. 

Additionally, Yeagen said the plot structure that is the most recognized and popular is the hero going on a quest with a goal in mind, such as retreating a magical object or even some sort of power which is the structure in A Curse for True Love. Though, Evangeline is searching not for any literal object but for her memories and her true love. However, Yeagan said fantasy is very a vast genre and this is only one of the many plot structures in fantasy. 

A Curse for True Love contains a common trope: the morally grey character. Yeagen said that, “Morally grey characters are good characterization,” adding that a well-written character is not black or white but is always grey somehow. In Jacks, (spoiler alert!) one of the love interest, is the perfect example of a morally grey character. His goals are to open the Valory and find his one true love and he seems to only care for what would benefit him. However, while he might seem to be cold and selfish, he does care just not in a traditional way. 

Garber kept the traditional aspect of a fairytale with a villain and a love interest, she doesn’t stick to the one-dimensional characters but instead layers them to add depth and complexity. She also confuses readers by hiding the villain in a charming suit and radiant smile.

What I found very interesting is this story’s fantasy elements, especially in world-building. The Magnificent North is a place filled with magical food, clothes, and objects, as well as curses, ballads that come true, enchantments, happily ever afters and a moral lesson. The whole place is perfectly perfect, like a Hallmark movie with snow that never melts and pastry that never perishes. 

Yeager said : “[world-building] should always further the story that you’re telling.”

Garber also wrote another series prior to Once Upon a Broken Heart called Caraval. It is set in the same world, but before the events of Once Upon a Broken Heart. In Caraval, the Prince of Hearts serves as an important side character and we get to discover more about his curse and story. 

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