Entry 11: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

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Author: Victoria Aveyard
Genres [according to Goodreads]:
Fiction
Romance
Science Fiction > Dystopia
Young Adult > Young Adult Fantasy
Fantasy > High Fantasy
Fantasy > Paranormal
Fantasy > Magic
Published/Publisher:  February 9th 2016/HarperTeen
Pages: 444
Format Read In: Hardcover

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

My Review [SPOILERS AHEAD]:

“If I am a sword, I am a sword made of glass, and I feel myself beginning to shatter” – Mare Barrow; Glass Sword, V. Aveyard

This is the second installment of the ‘Red Queen’ series and the first time I’ll be reviewing the second book. I never really got around to making a review for the first book, so…this should be interesting.

I really love the covers of these books and how simple they are. A sure-fire way for a book to bother me before I’ve even turned the first page is to have an outrageously cluttered cover, with different, incompatible text and too many things to look at. If you’re going to have a clutterfest of a cover, at least organize the items properly. Anyways, that’s my mini cover rant for this review. I also love the colour of the background; that silver-blue is gorgeous! The subtitle is of this book is pretty great, simple as well (see a pattern?) and really points to where I feel like this series if heading towards in terms of Mare’s character. Love me some WOC anti-heroes.

Plot

So this book is a continuation of the story told in the first. To recap, Mare Barrow is a young girl from a poor neighbourhood called The Stilts. She, like everyone else in her community, is a Red, a person with red blood. The Reds are harshly ruled over by people with silver blood, called Silvers, that each have a specific power which makes them superior, living as nobles and royalty. When she is offered a job to work at the Silver palace, she discovers that despite her red blood, she, too, has a power–the power to manipulate electricity. To hide this anomaly, the King and Queen set her up to be a long-lost Silver princess and marry her off to their younger son, Prince Mavin. Meanwhile a resistance group is emerging from the Reds, calling themselves the Scarlet Guard, and vowing to take down their Silver overlords and release the Reds from their enslavement. Mare has to make her way through the court of the Silvers all while keeping her true identity a secret as well as keeping her loyalty to the Scarlet Guard a secret. She finds a cruel enemy in Queen Elara who can manipulate people’s thoughts, she finds a friend in Mavin who joins her in her missions for the Scarlet Guard, and she finds someone she can’t help but trust in the prince and next-in-line for the throne, Tiberias Calore–or Cal–who offered her the job at the palace and appears to be one of the few Silvers who doesn’t see himself as superior to the Reds.

Just when things start to go well for the Guard, everything falls apart at the end of the novel. Mavin betrays Mare and Cal, manipulated for years by his mother and Cal’s step-mother Elara into become a true monster of a man. Elara herself forces her way into Cal’s head and compels him to behead his father, all while setting it up to look like Cal had always intended to kill him and was seduced by Mare, who is a Red playing tricks to appear Silver, to do so. Mavin takes the throne and has them both set up for execution, but they are saved at the last minute by the Scarlet Guard.

This is where the second book opens up.

The title of the book is really elegant in a poetic way that I sense Aveyard is fond of, if her quotable-text-in-every-sentence writing style is anything to go by. Mare is certainly a glass sword, a weapon desired by both sides of the battle but who is as fragile and as ready-to-break as glass. Her falling apart is illustrated very well in the novel, with language that isn’t simple but is still easy to follow. I find the world-building in this series to be really great! Advanced technology and regular Middle Age elements couple so well and doesn’t feel clunky or out of place. The writing is enjoyable and really good. Would have appreciated a map, though, for all the traveling that’s done in this book in particular. The flow of actions are smooth and immersive though I’m not a huge fan of the first-person POV.

BUT THAT ENDING. Okay, authors, when sh*t goes down less than 50 pages before the end of your book, I get seeeeeerious anxiety! It’s been a few days since I read ‘Glass Sword’ but my mind is still racing with that ending. I felt like it went by too quickly, though that may be just because everything seemed to be going smoothly for our heroes before they aRE SHOT OUT OF THE SKY AND HURTLING AT FULL SPEED TOWARDS THE GROUND. The pace of the ending really matched the speed at which they were falling, but I still feel like it should have been drawn out more and led up to slowly. It felt like the scene was just a dream, or nightmare, considering how random and terrifying it was, and Mare would suddenly jump awake in her seat still flying safely to the Choke.

But nope. That epilogue had me burning with anger in my seat. And now I have to wait till the third book to see how Mare’s going to survive when she’s literally within reach of Mavin and surrounded by people who want her dead.

[Internally screeching into the abyss]

Characters

Mare, as always, is a pretty interesting character though there are definitely things about her that frustrate me (that might have been the point, though). I like her spunk and her passion towards her mission, but she can get rather hesitant at times which just makes me want to shove her forward and not let her just half-ass her decisions. She stills appears to be at the cusp between a Red just trying to be as normal as possible and a revolutionary leader who may lead legions of different people against a tyrant. Not an easy balancing act for a 17-year-old. Still, she’s selfish but at least people tell her so. The fact that she doesn’t think of the rest of her family for much of both the first and this book, and the fact that she pokes fun at several characters for being brutes with no brains is really grating.

I found that lots of people disliked her supercilious attitude, especially at the end. Personally, I didn’t find her to be haughty in the book. It felt more like she hated being lonely because everyone isolated her in their own way, and she attempted to bridge herself to the other newbloods. Where she got arrogant was at the end, but I thought it made sense for her to get that way. She broke into a prison, killed many Silvers–some of whom begged for their lives–and watched her brother die all on her own command. We already knew she doesn’t handle guilt well so with all this extra guilt built on, I feel like she finally snapped and had to levitate herself up and over everyone else, to set herself apart, superior by power and experience, to pretend that she was the only one carrying grief and guilt, just so she can handle the evil inside her from her actions. Its why she pushed all the people she’d tried to get close to during the book away and I think it’s what pushed her to such an extreme as to broadcast the body of the queen to incite shock and a civil war. While it was an expected direction for this character, it doesn’t mean I liked it. It sucks watching a character you care about make one bad mistake after another. At least she reconciles with Farley and Kilorn at the end.

I’m still not totally charmed by Cal. I felt sympathy for him having to deal with killing his father, who loved him dearly despite being a tyrant and a merciless Silver, and being betrayed by a brother he loved and being betrayed by the woman he loves. At a basic level, I could feel bad for him and honestly, I hoped that he could find some peace in helping Mare do the right thing in gathering the newbloods. But there was still that reminder in the back of my head that this guy used to be a Prince, beloved by a kingdom of Silvers, and living in a luxury bestowed to him on the backs of Reds, all while being conscious that how the world is set up is wrong but doing nothing to stop it for fear it will threaten Silver lives. This hypocrisy, thankfully, is called out in the book a couple of times when he refuses to kill Silvers, even the guards who try to kill them. It just feels like he’d be one of those folks in a privilege group who knows how people of a marginalized group are being treated poorly and can acknowledge that he lives in privilege and that the treatment of marginalized groups is wrong but won’t do anything about it because it might turn his privilege companions against him, against each other and even more so against marginalized groups. And I just get several levels of ‘eeeeeeh’ from that. His actions as the book went along–his dedication and loyalty to the group–helped lessen this feeling of ‘eeeeeeh’ even though technically he had no where else to run to.

While I felt like his and Mare’s romance was out-of-place and unnecessary in the first book, I enjoyed how it grew to be more organic, starting from a place of just comforting each other since they shared the experience of betrayal and morphing into real camaraderie and love that Mare nearly f*cks up at the end. For once in a long while, there aren’t that many tropes riddled in their love and I’m interested in seeing where their romance goes.

I’m glad we got to see more of Kilorn, though part of my frustration with Mare was her actions towards Kilorn. The constant infantilization of him and making decisions for him rather than accept that he is a grown man with agency caused an understandable tension between them and bothered me a lot. I got the sense that by the end Mare could finally get over herself and see the potential in Reds who didn’t have superpowers. I enjoyed watching Kilorn grow into his own, displaying leadership within the newbloods and earning respect from most of his peers. Even though I hate love triangles as much as the next person, luckily the book didn’t quite go in that direction with Mare not returning Kilorn’s feelings for her and him understanding and accepting this (no friendzone whining here) and his dislike for Cal is really more rooted in who Cal is as a person rather than who he is to Mare, though Kilorn is not immune to jealousy. He and Cal seem to get along afterwards which I’d like to see more of it other books.

I was surprised that we got to learn a little bit more about Farley this time around. I just didn’t think we’d have the time to explore her. I haven’t read her prequel book ‘Steel Scars’ so I liked getting to see snippets of where she came from and what urges her on. However, I felt this in the first book and I felt it here now, that Farley is a rather 1D character that has the potential to be more fully formed. We only really see her being strong and stoic in front of her father and in front of Mare. I just wish we could see how she was with Shade and the other characters; from what is hinted, she seems to open up another facet of her personality. I hope she gets more fleshed out later on but I’m starting to doubt that will happen for her.

We got to see more of Shade, too, but not enough I feel to really care for him much. I wish Aveyard had taken some time to strengthen the bond he had with Mare or give us more of a personality from him. He just seemed like the slightly smarter, less physically strong version of her other two brothers and we don’t know a lick about their personalities either so that’s not good. As a result, his death fell flat with me, but I could appreciate how it, including the prison break, finally shattered Mare’s already-shaky mind. She was getting so wishy-washy that she really needed to be tipped over an edge so she can rise back up and have stronger resolve.

I really liked Cameron and I like that she was forward enough to voice all her hatred and doubt, however harsh, without being held back by feelings for or fear of Mare. To me, Mare would probably be just like her if she wasn’t the lightening girl and instead was a Red dragged out of her home and thrown into a prison. I felt really bad for Cameron, even when she lashed out, and it didn’t seem like anyone was really sympathetic to her even when they just thought she was another Red taken from her home like the rest of them. I felt her anger was justified, and her reactions were appropriate for a young girl who was barely 16 and thrown around by people who want to use her. She did pose a question explored in Lu’s ‘The Young Elites’ which is a trope I would like to see looked at more: If you’re not special, if you’re not a Red with Silver powers, what becomes of you? Do you deserve to be sacrificed without a choice for the chance to save the people who actually have a shot at fighting your common enemy? I’m just glad Mare listened to her in the end.

I don’t remember the other new characters as well. The Colonel seems to be just a hard-ass though we get hints that there’s more than meets the [blood]eye. Mare’s other brothers Tram and Bree show a surprising amount of bravery and intelligence at the end of the book when they volunteer to help her save the troupe in the Choke so that was exciting; for the amount of Barrow kids there are, I hope to see more of these siblings having each others’ backs. I wish I could remember the newbloods as well as I remember their powers. I can only really recall Ava, who was rather sweet, and Nanny, a silver fox with more energy than most of the younger folks much to my delight.

Mavin. Ugh. Just as horrendous as usual. Just as obsessive and abusive and untroubled by killing children and babies as he was in the first book. Some things have to remain static, at least. That apparently includes a villain with no redeemable qualities which are not my favourite villains as they aren’t fun or interesting. But at least you can trust that they’re evil. I just hope Mare doesn’t get sucked into the void that is Mavin. I’m terrified that Aveyard will take the next books anywhere near a romantic relationship between them because it’s not going to work and it’s going to destroy the series and both of these characters. Let’s not bring Foe Yay into this.

I’m surprised by how quickly Queen Elara was killed, though. She was such a pivotal villain in the first book, basically single-handedly setting into motion the entire story, and I can’t say that I really like the way her body was used as a tool, displayed gratuitously for all to see, even for a good cause. But there is a lot to be said about the character when Mare fears even Elara’s corpse. The Queen’s influence on Mare’s sanity is a scary element.

Negatives

There is some racist, specifically anti-East Asian, sentiment half-way through the book when a Silver guard’s eyes are described as “slanted” and later, when this same guard squinted, his eyes were “two black slits”. Yikes. It felt like it came out of no where, especially for a book with multiple characters of colour, so prepare yourself for that. Cameron, for all the good things I like about her, unfortunately falls into the Angry Black Girl stereotype and who seems to be the one bringing Mare to the “dark side” (i.e., using her powers to kill the guards in the prison mercilessly) which is uncomfortable especially when the “good side” is represented by the white Cal, who has benefited from Red slavery for years, in the very same scene.

What to Look Forward to

Mare beating Mavin within an inch of his life? I’m not joking. I continue to enjoy seeing the other characters fleshed out and I’d like to learn more about these folks coming from the mountains that were introduced at the end of the novel. This whole thing could turn into a world war and that could get messy so here’s hoping Aveyard can keep the plot from becoming convoluted.

My Rating: 4/5

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Entry 11: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2)

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