by Victoria Aveyard
Now on the run from the Crown, Mare and Cal are taken on by the Scarlet Guard. With the knowledge that she is not the only red-blooded anomaly, Mare is ready to begin the search for the others immediately – but the Scarlet Guard is not about to mindlessly follow a teenager when there are other battles to be fought, no matter how powerful her abilities. Once again Mare will have to fight for her freedom, for her safety, and for the lives of those she loves.
Most people seem to enjoy this book a lot less than they did Red Queen, and in a way, I understand why. If you picked up this series for the court intrigue and romance of the first book, Glass Sword will be disappointing. Now our protagonists are on the run, hiding out in the wilderness with the Resistance, and there is nary a fancy dress or elegant ball to be seen.
And it’s still very, very okay.
The shift in antagonists from the end of the last book mostly works, though it would be easier to see the tragedy in the whole thing if everyone involved wasn’t quite so sadistic. I understand the desire for complex antagonists, but when your supposed “tortured bad guy” is murdering babies to get our protagonists’ attention, it’s really hard not to hate him utterly – and when the “devil with a reason” never has an opportunity to explore her reasons, it all falls a bit flat.
I appreciated that Cal’s mindset remains problematic even now that he’s technically working with the Scarlet Guard. However, I did not appreciate the attempts to keep the love triangle going after the end of the last book. You can have your love triangles or your empowering “I’m an independant woman and I choose no man” moments, but you can’t have both, book.
Worldbuilding-wise, I’m not entirely convinced that the widening of the scope was a good thing? It was nice to have some new environments to explore, but when your technology is this anachronistic and inconsistent it’s hard to believe your world is truly real (they have huge planes that run solely on electricity, and huge electricity-powered superprisons, but their computers take up an entire room, have simplistic interfaces, and portable drives aren’t a thing yet.) It’s essentially a problem of the worldbuiling serving the plot rather than the plot deriving from the worldbuilding. Electricity powered planes that don’t require fuel? Convenient! USB drives? Too convenient, scrap-’em. Printing shall be the only option!
I mean, we’re talking about a world that has somehow unlocked advanced genetics but submarines are some kind of obscure lost technology. But still, that’s a pet peeve of mine and it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the action too much. I just had to tell myself it was set in “YAdystopia-land” and I was alright.
What did start to really bug me in this book, however, is the presence of what I shall now dub “the Mockingjay syndrome”: wherein a hero or heroine is hailed as this great leader and figurehead that inspires people to follow them, while demonstrating little to no leadership skills or charisma, putting their needs before those of their group, and generally making you wonder why people follow them at all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Mare as a protagonist: she’s sullen, and bitter, and impulsive, and often lets her emotions get the better of her. But those qualities do not make a good leader, or an inspiring figure to rally behind, and while her team sometimes expresses reservations about her ideas, they always end up following her. This gets annoying, especially after the group expands and Mare is no longer the defacto leader.
The ending definitely felt rushed, with a cliffhanger that practically comes out of nowhere, and Mare’s reliance on the men in her life is still an issue that hasn’t really been addressed since the last book. Still, like its predecessor, I enjoyed the read and would recommend it to others who like this sort of rebellion-against-the-dystopia story.
If nothing else, this series proves it has found its niche and plans on sticking with it. I just wish it could have been a little bit more.