A review by allisonwonderlandreads
The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber

adventurous dark emotional medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


"But Evangeline didn't want love that made sense, she wanted love that made her feel, love that made her want to fight and hope for the impossible."

The Ballad of Never After takes us deeper into the Magnificent North-- into a history that is cursed to go untold and into ballads where the endings change at every telling. You can expect more vampires, more romantic tension/angst, and more magical locales, be they whimsical or unsettling.

The romance is heavy on the will they/won't they vibe without actual progress. At this stage, our main pairing is a largely toxic situation where one can't be what the other wants. There are big, romantic gestures followed by a lack of compassion in more mundane moments. The thing is that this could all be addressed in the final book with personal growth (unlikely) or conveniently magical explanations (more likely and potentially unsatisfying). It makes me nervous for the conclusion. Setting up the tension in book one made sense, but I needed more motion in book two rather than a romantic standstill.

And YET. I get it from Evangeline's perspective. She's desperately lonely with no one she can trust. And that's extra hard given that she's kind and thrives on feeling safe and cherished. That's true for everyone to an extent, but she has this sweetness to her that goes unappreciated in the settings where she keeps finding herself on these adventures. Yes, she keeps getting played, but I think sometimes we treasure a protagonist for being emotionally calloused and belittle those who are open and warm-hearted because those more visible vulnerabilities get them into trouble. But is that really what we want from them? I'm kind of impressed that she has suffered so much, yet she still reaches out to new people and offers others fresh opportunities to prove themselves better or live up to all she hopes for them.

Another issue I have with this trilogy is that the romance drowns out any other relationships. I was hoping for more on the stepsister angle set up in book one and didn't get it. And the one friendship plot deserves the same level of care that the love story gets, but that's not the case. All the emotions seem smaller and more manageable, not able to measure up to the sweep of a romantic drama. And yet I feel that some of the situations Evangeline finds herself in deserve the same level of intensity and care for a friend.

I don't mean to be a downer about the book, though. Garber's appreciation for magical fashion continues to give me life. Evangeline always finds her way to clothes that perfectly fit her aesthetic, and if that's not magic I need, I don't know what is. The tiny dragons and magical food situation are certainly high-ranking wishes, as well. And that END though. While some aspects of the big reveal were a bit obvious, that's not the point. Intense cliffhanger material left me relieved that I waited to read this until the whole trilogy was released so I don't have to wait forever and a day to find out how things end. I still have hope and nerves in equal measure for how this story will be resolved. Fingers crossed for Evangeline's truly happy ending.