Overall Grade: More than 5 ⭐️
I want you to know that as I begin to write this review for Ashley Jade’s Broken Kingdom, the last book of the Royal Hearts Academy, I am “all up in my feels.” As I read BK, I didn’t really cry much. After my experience with Ruthless Knight, I thought for sure that I would sob through BK. Mostly, I thought this because I knew that Oakley and Bianca would have the most interesting stories (well, after Sawyer’s…because she’s still my girl, the Bible Thumper feels like me) because their actions in other books spoke to their psychology. Pain is hidden behind tough or jocular facades. Bullies bully out of their brokenness and insecurity; class clowns cry behind their masks. And I knew that was coming. What I didn’t expect was how I would cry at the very last sentence of the book. Even now, I want to cry. The ending is perfection, but that isn’t why I sobbed and why I want to keep crying. My feelings cull from the loss of these stories. Ashley Jade wove tales that burrowed into me and manifested connection. I don’t want to see them go, but I can’t read them again because I don’t want to try and relive the magic of their stories. Broken Kingdom is the ultimate culmination of this series, and Ashley Jade has cemented herself firmly as the author of my now favorite New Adult romance. It will take something mighty to dislodge my heart from Jace, Dylan, Cole, Sawyer, Oakley, and Bianca. I felt so connected to this crew, to Oakley and Bianca’s story that, inspired by Oakley’s poems, I wrote a short free verse for him and Bianca. This is how much this book attached itself to my spirit:
Strength born of fragility
Loved raised from ashes
Broken facades shielding squishy souls
Connection healing hurts.
When love is allowed to bloom, it
Takes up hollow spaces,
Filling in fissures and
Two souls in time, entwined, soaring.
For me, it’s the psychology of the characters that impresses me the most in Broken Kingdom. Jade manifests it deftly in her book, and it clings to you, the reader, creating a profundity that cannot be denied.
What Jade does brilliantly in this book is to restore the voice of the series. If you read Wicked Princess, you should have felt the lack, the disconnect. You might have attributed it to Bianca’s evolving story and choices. You might have said it was Oakley’s absence. You might have even suggested it was the limited interactions with Cole and Jace. Whatever your thinking, what you need to understand is that Jade carefully carved that into her book as the overall experience of the story and this series. You should have felt uneasy and confused because Jade intended that. The world is off its axis in Wicked Princess.
Here is the continued genius of Jade. She restores the peace methodically and decidedly in Broken Kingdom. It doesn’t happen immediately. Jade holds your hand through the revelation of Oakley and Bianca’s story, page by page, and you feel the voice shift. At 86% in, I felt it. I knew that we had begun the return, the series voice was restored, and I reveled in Jade’s genius at storytelling. This is her flex, and this is when she cemented her position in my mind. Her series explores relationship abuse, familial trauma, addiction, gender bias, etc. It finds its fever pitch and resolution in Broken Kingdom. And yet, Jade provides the salve, bringing the series to a conclusion in BK that rights all of its wrongs (that is story-driven only…there is nothing wrong with the craftsmanship of this story). It leaves us satiated yet already nostalgic for its characters and their stories (hence, my feels). This series is a tour de force. It’s my favorite new adult series to date because, while it has moments of teen farcicality, it always feels real. It was easy to suspend my disbelief with the bully themes because, while sometimes hyperbolized, Jade shows it is grounded in life. She knows who she is as a writer, and it has power in her storytelling.
Jace and Dylan’s story is a lit fuse.
Cole and Sawyer’s story is gunpowder.
Wicked Princess is the fire hitting the ammunition.
And Broken Kingdom is the cannon blast. The emotional gravitas of this book will flay you open.
Yet, Ashley Jade will come with her first aid kit, and she sews you up, offering solace with the most perfect of endings, and you leave Broken Kingdom and its predecessors with a scar, knowing that it will be with you for always.
In love and romance,