Glass Sword

Glass Sword

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, Red Queen. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Sorry for the delay in this review, it’s taken a bit longer to get over my cold than I expected and I wanted to ensure that I was able to do this story justice by giving it my full attention. Glass Sword was written by Victoria Aveyard and first published in 2016. It’s the sequel to the excellent Red Queen and picks up the story precisely where its prequel left off. Aveyard has also published a collection of two short stories under the title Cruel Crown which are designed to be read between Red Queen and Glass Sword.

Mare Barrow is finally free of her Silver oppressors. She and Cal were rescued by the Red Guard and spirited away to their safe haven. Mare is overjoyed to find that the rebels have rescued her entire family and ensured that they are healthy and comfortable, however her joy is short-lived. The Colonel has taken a severe disliking to Mare and has no desire to help her to find and rescue other Red-and-Silver fighters like herself.

When Mare discovers that the Colonel also plans to trade Cal back to Maven, she knows that she can’t stand by. Mounting a daring rescue, she flees into the night with Cal and a small group of her most loyal allies. She knows that it’s her duty to locate the other new-bloods and bring them together. They each possess powers that are completely unlike anything that the Silvers have ever experienced before, and Mare knows that this will turn the tide of the brewing war.

However, time is not on Mare’s side. Maven also knows the identities of the new-bloods and will stop at nothing to find and kill them all before they can be recruited. The king’s methods are growing increasingly cruel and he desires nothing more than to break the Little Lightning Girl. And it’s working. With every failed rescue, Mare’s heart is steadily growing colder. Will she be able to find the strength to spark a rebellion or will she find herself becoming as big a monster as her enemy?

Firstly, I think I should note that this book really does throw the reader in the deep end. If you haven’t read Red Queen yet, I’d really advise that you do so before picking up this novel. Glass Sword is a direct continuation of its prequel’s story and so it’s not going to make a lot of sense to you unless you’re already familiar with its concepts and characters.

I’d also like to note that I really did want to like this book. It actually hurts a lot to write this review because I loved Red Queen so much. While it wasn’t the most original novel out there, it was still a richly political read that I’d recommend wholeheartedly. I was excited to hear about Glass Sword’s release because I was hoping that it would be more of the same thing. Unfortunately, this is far from what I got. Glass Sword is a prime example of second novel syndrome, which is never a good thing.

Second novel syndrome is something that I’m pretty sure I’ve spoken about on this blog more than once. In young adult literature, short series are very popular. Often, you find that the first and last novels are particularly strong. The first is an opportunity to introduce characters and explore your fresh new ideas and the last is the cathartic conclusion. The middle novel becomes as nothing more than a bridge; a piece of filler that is only used to move characters to where they need to be for the climax. While it’s too early to tell for certain, I have a horrible feeling that’s what has happened here.

As I read Glass Sword, it quickly became apparent that the novel was almost entirely padding. Although there are occasionally hints of a larger story, such as the infrequent references to the 5,000 underage Reds that Maven has sent to fight on the frontline, the plot doesn’t really find its feet until the last hundred pages. Gone is the political intrigue and sense that Mare couldn’t trust anyone. The story this time really feels like a cross between Mockingjay and the X-men. Mare tries to build an army of slaves with super-powers to overthrow the tyrannical king.

Unlike Red Queen which was fairly focused, this time there is a Hell of a lot of meandering. Mare and her friends spend most of the novel flying around the world in search of new-bloods. While there is occasional moment of interest (the constant uncertainty as to whether they will find their allies before Maven and mild curiosity regarding what powers the new-bloods will display), I largely found this method of storytelling to be needlessly repetitive. Mare’s dialogue is peppered with flowery exposition but it rarely covers new concepts. I lost count of the number of times that Mare made reference to how Cal felt betrayed by his brother but he never really expressed this himself. This style of writing just felt particularly weak to me as it did nothing but distance me from the characters.

The book on the whole just felt far less polished than Red Queen. The dialogue felt very forced and the characters (Mare included) didn’t really get a lot of room to develop. Now that Mare has moved away from the Nortan court, she’s left a lot of Red Queen’s major characters behind. The likes of Maven, Julian and Elara are given very minor roles this time. Even characters like Cal, the closest thing to Mare’s love interest, really took a backseat and received surprisingly little character development. Instead we are introduced to a whole host of new-bloods. However, I really struggled to care about any of them. In the previous novel, a lot of time was spent detailing conversations that Mare had with the primary characters. I could understand why she grew so attached to Julian and why Elara was dangerous. The new-bloods exist as nothing more than names and powers. Very few of them had any kind of individuality. Even in death, I couldn’t really feel sad as I never felt as though I knew them.

Glass Sword also strangely fluctuated between being too slow and too fast. When the plot of the story finally kicked in, it was heralded by the sudden appearance of a powerful seer who revealed to Mare the villains’ nefarious plan before walking out of the novel. I kid you not. Surely there was a better way – any way – to further the plot than by use of this very convenient device. The action sequences were also dizzying. During the combat sequences, everything was just so sudden that it was difficult to interpret what was going on. At one point, a major character was killed in combat and yet I didn’t even register that this had happened until several pages later.

I also have reservations about the ending. I’m never fond of cliffhangers and this was particularly strange one. While it was a brave move for Aveyard and incredibly dramatic, it still felt as though it came entirely out of left field. The novel was structured as though it was always building up to the rescue of the teenage soldiers. Most of the tension of the story hinged on the expectation that this dangerous mission would actually occur and yet all of this build-up was nullified in the final chapter because the plot in Glass Sword never actually got to this point.

However, my biggest problem in the story was Mare herself. I loved Mare as she was in Red Queen. She was strong willed but still human, capable of making errors and forever doubting herself. By the end of Glass Sword, she’s become as bad as Maven. At one point, she even turns her nose up at Kilorn as she thinks “Who is he to question my orders? He’s no one. A fish boy with only good luck and my foolishness to protect him. Not like Shade, a teleporter, a new-blood, a great man”. Nice Mare. Way to show superiority to one of your allies. Isn’t that what the Silvers were guilty of? You know, those oppressive tyrants that you’re trying to overthrow?

Yes, I do understand that this is entirely the point of the novel – that her circumstances are slowly turning her into a monster – but it still made Glass Sword painful to read. Mare is certainly no Katniss. I could get behind Katniss because she was the reluctant martyr. She wanted peace but was resigned to the fact that she would have to fight to achieve it. I couldn’t empathise with Mare, the character who was prepared to torture defenceless guards to death because “lightning has no mercy”. For me, Mare was the thing that really made the novel drag. I was so disconnected to her, to her attitude, to the way that she treated the people who tried to help her, that I found it impossible to care about any of the terrible things that happened to her.

Sorry, this review is really long. I only feel as though I’ve scratched the surface but I’m sure I’ve gotten across just how disappointed I was with this novel. While I loved Red Queen, the sequel just wasn’t on the same level. It lost all of its tension and intrigue and turned Mare into a heartless and despicable human being. I really hope that this book is just suffering from second novel syndrome and that the third instalment finds its feet once again but, unfortunately, I’m not going to be waiting for it with bated breath.

Glass Sword can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Cruel Crown | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: Victoria Aveyard – Glass Sword | Fyrefly's Book Blog

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