Written by: Victoria Aveyard
Book #2 / 4 of the Red Queen Series
Review: 3.5 / 5 stars
Summary: Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The Silver-controlled crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind. Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?
“No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. They become that way, through choice and circumstance.”
Review: Man, I’ve been on a roll with these sequel readings lately. After You, The Clockwork Prince, The Invasion of the Tearling… and now, another one to add to the list.
Glass Sword is one of the better second books I’ve read, however. Although I definitely think Aveyard’s writing in Red Queen was far superior with the descriptions of the palace and the Stilts, she still manages to create easily imaginable scenes, such as at the secret Lakeland camp, the newblood refugee camps, and all the desolate battlezones in between. Although there’s definitely a lot more time spent repeating old conversations and tropes – such as Cal and Mare commiserating over the loss of “the boy they once knew” (aka Maven), and Mare feeling guilty about pulling away from her family and all the people who have died around her, and unexplained romantic developments – the plot is relatively easy to follow and does efficiently connect what happened in Red Queen and will most likely take place in the novel.
If anything, I wish Aveyard’s writing a had been a bit more grandiose, and a bit more complex. Although I understand that Mare is a teenage girl just like the rest of them, it’s sometimes difficult for me to understand why Mare refuses to see past her personal issues to the very large public issues going on around her – especially when she then, ten pages later, complains about all the pressure in fixing this issues relying on her, when it is obvious that many others are taking on more of the weight. Beyond that, Aveyard had so many opportunities to make this book more enticing: she could have increased the number of fight scenes, or had more disgruntled members among the newbloods following Mare, or had Cal and Mare get separated or into a fight, or something. But instead, all Glass Sword was until the last chapter was a relatively boring story about searching for newbloods and building an army – necessary, but not inflammatory. As for the complexity of this novel, very little actually happens. The most interesting twist is that of Jon, a newblood who can see the future. Although I’m a little confused as to how he is somehow far more special than those of house Eagrie, who also see the future, Jon is the instigator of the most important thing to happen in this book, and his actions at the end of the book promise that far more interesting things are to come. This isn’t the only plot line that has yet to be tied in a nice bow; in Glass of Sword, not only does Aveyard continue to make allusions to the mysterious “Command”, but also introduces a team of emissaries from a far off and relatively unknown country. Although their presence promises something further will occur, she did literally nothing with them in this novel, making me wonder why she bothered mentioning them in this book at all. However, the biggest changes that Aveyard included in this book were, unsurprisingly, who she chose to die. The two most notable deaths in this book were both too understated, but they are the same in that two immensely powerful characters, at different times and in different ways, were gone in an instant. Maybe she intended for this to be symbolic of how, despite their relative powers, they are still human and fragile and vulnerable, but I think Aveyard missed the opportunity to either make the deaths worth something more or to at least discuss how being a magical person doesn’t save you from the mundane matters of life.
I didn’t particularly like or dislike Mare in the first book; to me, she was just kind of… there. That feeling pretty much carries all throughout this book as well. I do enjoy that Mare is constantly thinking about the effects of her actions, and that she may seem “angsty” to others related to her indecisiveness, but I think it shows that Mare could be a good leader if she just controlled her obvious dark side. And I think it’s okay for Mare to have a dark side, too – but when she is in her dark side, she becomes so immensely selfish, and that’s not okay, especially in the situations when it occurs. Mare spends a lot of this book mourning over the loss of Maven, and honestly, it really annoys me. Maven had become like a comrade to her, and a trusted friend, and maybe she even started to love him a little bit – but her level of mourning and her inability to move on is more representative of the undying, unwavering, and unquestionable love she has for the other Calore brother. The one thing I can definitely say is that I’m glad Aveyard finally left the whole Kilorn/Cal/Mare love triangle behind, by repeatedly stating that Kilorn is just a friend. I physically cannot handle another story with a love triangle – and as I said above, as much as people try to convince me that Cal/Mare/Maven is a love triangle, I just refuse to believe it – mostly because I so think Cal and Mare are going to be endgame.
That being said, Cal is one of the few characters in this series that I particularly enjoy and feel attached to. I thoroughly enjoyed Cal in Red Queen, because he was sweet to Mare when under the guise of being a peasant, a noble ruler in the battlefield, and because – *gasp* – he didn’t actually choose Mare at the end of Red Queen, instead choosing to honor his role as general and future king of Norta. And as much as I complain about Mare’s, I can stomach Cal’s; he was forced to kill his father, his brother and best friend betrayed him, he lost his throne and his command, and he is frequently ostracized by the camp of newbloods for being a Silver and a royal… yet he still handles all of this better than Mare. I wait none too patiently for the day that they finally overthrow Maven and Cal takes over what is rightfully his, because I think that he would rule Norta incredibly well, as his mother would have wanted him to.
But beyond what can be argued as the two protagonists of the story, the rebels I think are the most easily likable, relatable and enjoyable characters in the book. I’ve loved Farley and her badassery from the first moment she was mentioned, and I love that we see a lot more of her vulnerability in this novel. Although some see Aveyard’s inclusion of Mare’s brother as one of the newbloods, I think it really adds to the story, and also makes sense genetically speaking. Additionally, Shade I think is one of my favorite characters of the entire series, as he brings some much added optimism and humor to situations that really call for it; also, his power of being able to “jump” through space is one of my favorites. And while the other newbloods, including the loving Nanny, intelligent and fierce Ada, and the stubborn and naive Cameron, also add so much character to the story and each have vital roles to play, I enjoy even the non-newblood characters such as Kilorn. Although I am still confused as to how Kilorn seem to escaped whatever existing ranking system there must be in the Scarlet Guard, and it worked out a little too evenly for Mare’s sake, I still enjoy that he and Shade are able to keep Mare grounded when she so desperately needs it. Working together, all of the rebels show a united front, and show how important it is to not let small things like blood divide you – a vital lesson indeed.
*WARNING: IT’S ABOUT TO GET SPOILER-Y IN HERE*
To me, the villains of a novel can make or break the book – and the Red Queen series is teetering a little too closely to “broken” for me. To say that Maven is the villain of Norta’s and, specifically, Cal’s story is unfair, but to say that he is the villain of Mare’s is not. He uses every chance he has to torture Mare, going beyond just the normal level of fighting his enemy, because he allowed Mare to see a side of him that I believe truly does exist – but that Maven wants to deny. And although Maven definitely hits Mare on a personal level, and his genuine hatred for the rebels and the newbloods makes him a fearsome force, I think Elara should have been the boss level villain at the end. She can freaking warp your mind – and that makes me trust Maven’s “intentions” a little less. Beyond that, Elara’s death was too understated. I know I was reading pretty fast because I was excited, but I definitely missed them moment where Mare killed her and had to go back and read it again. Elara, for all her supposed strength and darkness inside her that Aveyard kept describing through the likes of Mare, Cal, Maven, and Julian, seemed to be not a threat. We, as readers, deserved more of an explanation for why Elara became who she was – and that’s why I don’t trust her death fully. I also don’t trust Elara’s graying hair and worn appearance as mentioned at the end of the book. I don’t like Maven – I think he’s a huge freaking twerp – but is it possible that he’s more under his mother’s thumb than anybody knows? I don’t think either of them is particularly creative or intelligent, but they definitely are evil and powerful, so Aveyard hasn’t lost me yet. I’m still very curious to see what Maven does next.
I read through the last chapter of Glass Sword like Spencer Reid a la Criminal Minds, and the plot twist at the very end of the book had me slamming it down out of excitement and earning weird looks at the bookstore. Second books almost always have a cliff hanger, so I wasn’t surprised there was one, but I was surprised by the twist because it sets up the third book for an entirely different story than where I thought the story was headed. It really supplemented the rest of the book, which is relatively slow, by keeping my excitement level up for the next book, which now cannot come soon enough!