Stephanie Garber, author of the young adult fantasy trilogy “Caraval,” recently announced the September release of “The Ballad of Never After.” “The Ballad of Never After” is the sequel to the beloved bestseller “Once Upon a Broken Heart.” Garber hasn’t revealed whether her new series will end with “Never After” and be a duology, or if it will be another trilogy; fans simply have to read the novel to find out, as Garber states, because the answer is revealed at the end.
Garber’s new series is set in the same universe as “Caraval.” Fans highly anticipate the return of Garber’s signature lush descriptions, epic kiss scenes and favorite characters. Sisters Scarlett and Tella make an appearance, as do a few of the famous Fates including Jacks, the Prince of Broken Hearts. After mysteriously disappearing in the final “Caraval” book, what happened to Jacks is now finally being explored. In this spin-off series that centers around him, it’s clear he’s ready to cause some more mayhem, and we’re all eager to witness it.
Jacks is a fictional villain that readers love to adore. He’s one of the legendary (and cursed) Fates. Jacks has the power to control people’s emotions and heartbeats, and his kiss is deadly — except for his one true love, making it literally a kiss worth dying for. Even as we beg him to show some human emotions, we faithfully root for him because he’s just so fun. Jacks is one of many bad boys that may be heartless but who we eat up anyway, illustrating the appeal of fictional villains. First and foremost, they’re more interesting than heroes.
Villains have the best lines, like, for example, Jacks’ hilarious one-liner, “Stop flashing your fangs. I’m the only one who gets to bite her.” They’re fun to dissect once we get their full backstory. Typically, a villain’s tragic origins are revealed gradually, adding to their charm. Who among us can’t relate to circumstances outside of our control sending us into a tailspin?
No, not all of us have faced a setback and then set out to destroy the world or pursue a vendetta against something. It’s interesting to see the parts of ourselves that are reflected in the villains. Sympathizing with their dark past while recognizing that without villains there are no heroes, is undeniably human.
Villains can make the best romantic partners because they’re passionate and protective. With someone like Jacks, whose kisses are deadly to every girl except his true love, readers can’t help but feel enticed by the fact that the villain’s one weakness is the one that captures their heart. The moment a villain turns all their energy from destruction and chaos into loving their partner is golden.
A villain never hesitates to defend their partner by any means necessary, keeping things interesting. In turn, their partner makes the villain a better person simply by loving them. They provide light amid darkness through their tenacity — usually by refusing to listen to others that insist the villain is incapable of love. It takes both the sun and rain to grow a garden, and the villain’s relationship with someone that reels them in and softens them enough to humanize them has endless appeal.
Another reason “The Ballad of Never After” is highly anticipated is because the first book ended on a cliffhanger. I’m eager to see how the relationship between Jacks and the protagonist, Evangeline Fox, will continue to play out. It’s already achieved the hard feat of maintaining the balance inside a top-notch enemies-to-lovers romance without seeming too rushed or unrealistic. The literary trope of enemies turning into lovers has been popularized in books like “The Cruel Prince,” “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” “Red, White & Royal Blue” and even “Pride and Prejudice.”
It’s been a favorite trope of readers due to iconic trademarks ranging from the tension of holding a love interest at sword-point to screaming, “I love you!” in a passionate argument. At some point, the characters in question realize it’s in their best interests to work together, not against each other, and a reluctant alliance forms, gradually leading to something more. With “The Ballad of Never After,” readers will find out whether the alliance between Jacks and Evangeline has been permanently shattered.
As a fan of Evangeline and Jacks, I hope not; in the rare moments Jacks lets his guard down, it’s evident he can be so much more. Their relationship has so much potential, as they both seem to be broken in the same places within that come from simply wanting to be loved. In addition, they have that same will of iron, Evangeline refusing to be intimidated or walked on by the ruthless and manipulative Jacks.
In my favorite scene from “Once Upon a Broken Heart,” Jacks tells Evangeline what transpired between him and his one true love, Tella, the only girl who’s ever survived his fatal kiss. Tella ultimately chose another in the “Caraval” series, generating Evangeline’s sympathy for Jacks at the turning point of the novel. While Jacks didn’t end up with Tella, it could be because Evangeline’s the one for him.
It’ll be interesting to see how the burgeoning romance between Jacks and Evangeline progresses given that we already know she’s not his true love — meaning if he kisses her, he’ll kill her. Could there possibly be a loophole? Could he have more than one true love? Could he be capable of finally feeling love or becoming human as the Fates can’t feel love? Could Evangeline ever possibly trust him?
It may be too much to hope that the villain will get his happy ending, given the pending sequel’s title and Garber’s mysterious post on Instagram posted soon after she finished writing: “P.S. I’m sorry 😘.” Because Jacks’ appeal is partly due to the fact that he is a villain, I don’t know if I’m willing to see him become a hero in order to end up with Evangeline. At any rate, I can’t wait to get my hands on the gorgeous purple cover of “The Ballad of Never After” when it’s released in September.