Published: February 11th 2016 by Orbit Books
Format: ARC, 320 pages
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Mare's blood is red - the colour 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 the prince and friend who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.
Pursued by the Silver 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?
I liked Red Queen but I’ll be the first to admit that I found it a derivative. Whether that’s because I usually read more than 100 books a year, most of them YA SFF, or because the book really was derivative, is up for debate. Regardless, I enjoyed Red Queen enough to anticipate the release of its sequel, and as the release date grew closer, I found that my anticipation grew. I was excited about my return to this world.
And I’m glad to say that Glass Sword didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a stronger sequel by far. It rose above the admittedly low bar that Red Queen had set.
We know Mare. We know she’s brave (recklessly so), we know she’s self-sacrificial to a fault but, at the same time, inherently selfish. Mare, as a newblood, isn’t simply a Red with Silver powers, “stronger than both”. She’s had to learn how to be Red and Silver both and her conflict forms the meat of the book. She wants to be like every other newblood, an equal, but wants to lead and command them at the same time. She makes promises and draws lines in the sand, and with each broken oath and line crossed she loses a part of herself. She becomes everything she loathes. After reading about countless heroes and heroines who always take the moral high ground and never act in self-interest, it’s refreshing to read a character who falls into darkness despite having the best intentions.
There isn’t enough Cal in this book! There will never be enough Cal, admittedly, but still. Cal is just as lost and broken as Mare. His brother betrayed him, his people want him dead, and his new allies hate him because of the colour of his blood. His only friend is Mare, someone who’s betrayed him once already, someone who he cannot afford to trust, someone who can only distract him and make him weak. The tension between Cal and Mare is brilliant.
The world-building expands admirably in this book, introducing new countries and expanding on the ones briefly mentioned in Red Queen. We also meet a few characters who hail from other countries, which was fun. Admittedly, I’m still unsure of the geography of this world, and the reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, I’ve been lucky enough to read ARCs of both books, which means no maps! Secondly, I believe the author assumes readers are familiar with the geography of … New York and its surrounds, to the point where she makes (what I assume are) very clever descriptions of landscapes that fly clear over my head. View Spoiler »Edited to add: So, a lengthy discussion between myself, Brett, and Joey, has revealed that many (most?) readers are unaware that Norta is North America. You can find an online map of Aveyard’s world here. It seems that there will be a map included in the UK paperback bind-up of Cruel Crown, but not in the finished edition of Glass Sword (I could be wrong!). Naercy is New York, Delphi is Philadelphia, the Lakelands are (parts of?) Canada. On the online map, you can see where the old coastline is relative to the new one in this post-apocalyptic world. Joey has kindly made a comparison map which you can view here. « Hide Spoiler
The writing in Glass Sword is stronger than it was in Red Queen. Aveyard has matured as an author and seems to be hitting her stride. The themes and plotting of this book are markedly less derivative. The writing is tighter, the story flows in a smoother fashion, and the characters have more depth.
I found a lot to like in Glass Sword. I think it’s a good sequel that builds and expands on the foundations of its predecessor. The story has taken an interesting turn, and I’m glad that it’s been expanded to four books, because there’s obviously a lot more to explore. Glass Sword has all the makers of an admirable sequel, and the Red Queen series is shaping up to be an excellent adventure. I’m planning to read the novella bind up – Cruel Crown – when it comes out later this month, and then I’ll return to eagerly anticipating the next volume.