Friday, 5 February 2016

'Glass Sword', by Victoria Aveyard

Title: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)
Author(s): Victoria Aveyard
Release Date: 11th February 2016
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Source: Netgalley (ARC)

Synopsis:
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?


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{Note: This review contains spoilers for 'Red Queen'}

It's not very often that I like a second book in a series as much as or even more than the first. The first book is always the point of entry into a fresh, new world: you get all the world-building, you meet the characters, and there's quite a lot happening. Once that becomes a series, though, more often than not the following books are not so full of content as their inaugural chapter: there is nothing but filler, and what actually happens tends to leave readers craving for more.

Taking this into account, I was trying very hard to limit my expectations regarding 'Glass Sword'. It was still one of my most anticipated releases of 2016, so that balance was not very successfully achieved on my part. I loved 'Red Queen', I saw the potential that it had to become an awesome book series, and I wanted more than nothing for that potential to come to life.

And it did. Oh, how it did.

'Glass Sword' picks up immediately at the point where 'Red Queen' stopped. After Maven's betrayal (I still have not gotten over it, going on a tangent here. Best plot twist ever!), Mare wants to use the list that Julian gave her of red bloods with silver abilities to track them down and recruit them into fighting the new monarchy that is starting to set its roots in Norta. For that she needs the Scarlet Guard, while at the same time hiding from Maven, dealing with Cal, and deciding who she can trust.

The first thing I want to point out is just how much more the Scarlet Guard gets developed in this book. They managed to sneak on everyone with their existence in 'Red Queen', and that's not at all surprising seeing here how much bigger they are than just a stray group of rebels. Farley gets a lot more showtime as well, which brought a great dynamic to the story. While everyone else is afraid of the 'little lightning girl', Farley is having none of that, balancing out the leadership in their group very effectively.

Mare develops so much more in this book. I loved seeing how much she is changing as a person, and how she manages to deal with it. She struggles with her identity, with the power that has suddenly been thrust into her hands, with the consequences of her actions. She reminded me a lot of Katniss Everdeen: Katniss' PTSD was brilliantly developed in the books, and Mare goes through a similar path. Here I have to praise Victoria's writing, because it was simply outstanding. It's always in the little things that these flaws and doubts and insecurities come through in the story, and they are perfectly weaved into the plot: for example, there is an instance where Mare is dealing with a fifteen year old, and she thinks 'I hate children'. At first I thought it odd since Mare is only seventeen, but then it hit me. She's been through so much, she feels like she has aged decades. It could have come through as pretentious, but here its only a small pebble in the mountain that is the character development that not only Mare but quite a lot of other characters go through.

Let's not even get into Cal and how he deals with the fact his own brother had a hand in making him kill their father, otherwise this post won't end. I had some issues with him in the first book (mostly the romantic side of the plot, which here was done so much better) but damn, did he grow on me!

This still left quite a lot of room for the plot to move forward. You are thrown right into the middle of the action and it rarely slows down. There's twists and turns where you don't expect them to be, which translated into a very fast paced read, slowing down just enough to look out for clues. Remember, don't trust anyone!

Also, prepare for the last few chapters. Remember Chapter 26 in 'Red Queen'? When you start its counterpart here, grab a blanket, snacks, and possibly a box of tissues. From that point on, you will not be able to put the book down and will be hanging tight until the very last word.

'Glass Sword' is what every sequel should aspire to be. A deeper understanding of a fascinating world, fleshed out characters and an explosive plot. If I had to pick a Silver ability, it would have to be looking into the future to find out what happens next!

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