Series: Red Queen #2
Published by HarperTeen on February 9th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.
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 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?
The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.
If I am a sword, I am a sword made of glass, and I feel myself beginning to shatter.
Unfortunately, my opinion of this series shattered like glass as well. Red Queen was far from perfect but I had been somewhat intrigued by Aveyard’s debut, enough to be at least a little bit curious as to what the sequel might hold in store. After that earth-shattering cliffhanger Red Queen delivered, I had high expectations for Glass Sword. For me, the sequel soared past my expectations by a huge margin, with only little redeeming qualities to speak of.
Beware of spoilers for the first instalment. Proceed at your own risk if you haven’t read Red Queen. You’ve been warned.
The 2 stars
I can’t decide whether I liked or disliked the plot but let me address the good first: The plot is less static than in Red Queen (although I personally didn’t mind so much). It is more of an adventure, as Mare and her allies are on the run, trying to outrun Maven and chasing from place to place on their search for Silver-Reds like Mare.
Out of all the characters, I never thought I’d enjoy Cal’s the most. In Red Queen, he was bland. In Glass Sword, the exiled prince was the only magnet of my sympathy. Cal has lost everything and still manages to be a half-decent human being, compared to Mare.
Despite his lacking presence as the villain, Maven is a character that still intrigues me. I love how Aveyard explored his weaknesses, and that he’s portrayed as hovering in the moral grey zones between ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
No matter the issues I will be ranting about in a second, the book held my attention well enough to make me read on, even if I skimmed at times. So, that’s got to count for something, I guess.
The 3 missing stars
As I’ve said, the plot had both enjoyable and dissatisfying aspects. The escape and the hunt after Silver-Reds were interesting, at first, but I grew bored of it pretty quickly. It felt extremely repetitive at some point. In addition, everything is just utterly predictable. One of the mottos of this book is “Anyone can betray anyone” (or something along those lines) but none of those twists took me by surprise. And sure, Aveyard writes teeth-gnashing cliffhangers, I’ll hand her that. The thing is: I saw this one coming from a mile away.
Some people thought Mare Barrow was a whiny brat in Red Queen. Yes, she was a bit special snowflake-y but I thought she showed some guts, even though she was cornered like a rabbit. Of course, the suffering she has endured influences her personality, and at the beginning, I was quite content with what I was seeing. Mare hardens, sharpens. I expected her to be the badass rebel she’d been cut out to be in the first instalment. Buuut she kind of… steps over the line. You know how it says in the synopsis that Mare is different? Well, she sure as hell won’t let you forget about her specialness. She behaves like a God with her abilities. She is unbelievably arrogant, ruthless, and selfish. I’m not saying being selfish isn’t a very human trait but, for me, family and friends come before everything, and this is not the case with Mare.
“But still, you feel no remorse for the dead. You do whatever you can to forget them. You abandoned your family without a word. You can’t control yourself. Half the time you run away from leadership, and the other half you act like some untouchable martyr, crowned in guilt, the only person who’s really giving herself to the cause. Look around you, Mare Barrow.”
Thank you, Cal, for summarizing what was wrong with this insufferable woman throughout the whole Goddamn book.
The supporting characters didn’t make me want to pull out my hair (maybe with the exception of Kilorn, that annoying little shit), but they aren’t fleshed out enough. Hell, I don’t expect an author to go into the depth of every protagonist but her brother, for example, is a cardboard character albeit being crucial to the story. And the crew? Just a group of names floating around. And Maven? The villain in this book? Not marking his presence enough for my taste.
This was not the worst of it.
In Red Queen, the world-building was barely existent and the writing was mediocre. But I told myself: It’s a debut, it’ll get better, just like Alexandra Bracken’s writing in Never Fade was lengths better than in her debut, or Leigh Bardugo’s character development in Siege and Storm improved a lot compared to the first book. What about Victoria Aveyard? I had issues with the world-building and the writing before but, being a now accomplished author, I expected Aveyard to advance her skills, to stomp captivating worlds out of the ground and wind me around her finger with good prose. But nope. The world-building consists of “that island here” and “that strip of land there”, and the writing hasn’t evolved at all. It still feels underdeveloped, almost sloppy (!), to me. Her dialogue can be witty, and at other times it would be an assemblage of “Oh” and “right”. Her descriptions are hasty, and her inner monologues seemed unnecessary to me. I personally think this is mediocre writing. And it made me not care about the story because the writing felt like Aveyard didn’t give a damn, either. I do not mean to be offensive but these are the vibes I got from this book, I’m sorry.
And where was the romance, you ask? Honestly, I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this. I can’t decide whether I was glad to not have to deal with Mare’s boy troubles – though Aveyard scraped at the edge of more drama – or whether it was something I missed here, probably the former.
Among other things, I judge books by the emotions they evoke in me. The stronger the emotion (ranging from bubbly happiness to blind rage), the higher my rating. In Red Queen, I was invested, I cared. In Glass Sword, I just didn’t give a rat’s ass, not even the deaths could shake me! Overall, Glass Sword was a massive disappointment for me.