Book Title: Glass Sword (Red Queen #02) Author: Victoria Aveyard Number of pages: 448
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.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– The cover screams: “why fix what isn’t broke?”
– World building veers toward Sci-Fi introducing a wealth of technology; lack of explanation for caste-defining blood distinctions
– Plot is “recruitment to the cause“-centric similar to X-Men: First Class
– Lacking threat and presence of villains throughout (Maven basically gets Darkling’d a la Grisha Trilogy)
– New characters share similarities to those in the X-Men, but more importantly, they read as token shields and plot pushers with limited charisma other than their utility
– Mare remains Mare; continued repetition of old-and-new quotes
– Recommended to have the map of Norta handy as it isn’t provided (see below)
Fine print #1: You probably shouldn’t read the review unless you’ve read Red Queen. There aren’t any Glass Sword spoilers.
Fine print #2: Disregard my opinions below and read Glass Sword if you’d like to. (Then come back to me and we can talk about it.)
Full disclosure: I received an ARC courtesy of a giveaway from Brittany @ Brittany’s Book Rambles. Thanks Britt (and sorry Britt :(!)
You know…I never fully understood the X-Men comparisons tacked onto this series. Until now. Speaking to the films alone, Glass Sword, draws similarities to X-Men: First Class. While it’s fine that both mediums explore the collective “otherism” against the State, what’s most uncanny is the focus on recruitment as a major plot point. I mean…there’s a scene that’s almost verbatim of The Fellowship of the Ring where each individual, one by one, volunteers to be tribute for the cause. Oh wait…
It’s a fun idea but once the recruitment element is stripped away, the context in politics, magic systems, history, hard-and-soft sciences, etc., need to be richly textured enough to drive the urgency of the conflict over and beyond a vendetta. Only it isn’t and that’s where I find difficulties enjoying Glass Sword.
It was fine for Red Queen to not provide a map as the book is set in four primary locations (maybe). Glass Sword, however, expands the world so wide that by omission, it can be disorientating when geographically navigating where they are versus where they need to go.
And there is a lot of traveling. A lot a lot. Like they’re going south and going south, …–and wait, we just walked off the face of the world…? Confusion everywhere.
The worst part is when you learn Norta is actually a carbon copy of post-apocalyptic Eastern North America. Had I known this key detail, I would’ve better understood the creative intent of the world-building. This is a side-by-side comparison of the map provided by Epic Reads in which I added the Google Maps to (click to open in a new window):
The problem isn’t that signs aren’t there; the locations hint at them but it doesn’t necessarily identify them as being canon—Haven (“New Haven”), Delphie (“Philadelphia”), Pitarus (“Pittsburgh”), etc., could have been anywhere…because, well, “fantasy” — but it lacks the concrete fulfillment a map would have provided.
Point is: not all readers will catch these Easter eggs or even go as far as to search up supplemental information on their own time. More importantly is that not everyone calls the West/Americas their home. I just think it was a missed opportunity to withhold the map in text.
It’s not all migraines though. In Red Queen, there were unexplained nods appealing to science fiction that is somewhat explored in GS. If you’re me, you went into RQ thinking it was fantasy through and through. And it still kind of is. But those moments in the Queenstrial where the palace walls moved or even Cal’s bicycle were left open for interpretation. Now, all the trickling of science expands into various technologies. Though admittedly, the materializing of it can feel a bit out of the blue.
Ultimately, this begs the question of how much footing this franchise has in the fantasy shoe. The “magic system” seems taken for granted, and truthfully, it’s not really expanded upon aside from the implied biochemistry (?) of it all.
With the map being telling of a futuristic America coupled with the strengthened undertones of science, I’d be hard pressed to not say that Glass Sword shifts the series to become more of post-apocalyptic sci-fi/urban fantasy instead of its thought-to-be [high?] fantasy tag.
I’ll be the first to admit that I typically love second books in most trilogies/series as they explore the protagonist’s psyche in greater depth. But then there’s the outlier named Mare Barrow, The Lightning Girl. Her indecisiveness in Red Queen was refined by the end with conviction and drive to survive. In Glass Sword, Mare reads as if she’s taken a few steps back and maintains her wishy-washy antics; particularly toward her friend-boy in Calore. All I’ll say is this: fans of this ship will be happy even if their dynamic is hot-and-cold.
Mare continually ponders the agonizing “he’s bad for me…but” catchphrase. Now imagine this happening once a chapter (not a stretch). Agonizing, right?
And another migraine? If you thought “Anyone can betray anyone” felt like a broken record player, you haven’t yet experienced the uncertainties of “I don’t know” in Glass Sword. She’s continually narrating that she doesn’t know rather than showing her frustrations of confusion. Basically:
Mare: [Some context]… I don’t know.
Reader: Well wtf do you want me to do? I don’t know either…
Omitting Mare’s voice (…), the prose is descriptively sound; particularly in the action sequences. The pacing is rather off at times as I did find myself putting the book down (although that might just come with the territory of the narrator). There were liberties taken to ground the story which simply disengaged me. For example, the deaths were handled in a very cut to black way with life resuming and limited follow through as if the event didn’t happen at all.
While I think I’ve spoken enough about Mare, there’s two things I should add: 1- her external demeanor feels sparsely different than what she internalizes and 2- her crusade reads incredibly selfish. Look, I appreciate her revelation to try to make good on what she has within arms reach but it’s funny to me that when someone says “no” to Mare, she calls them a bitch (seriously) or when she’s running from a firefight of bullets, she doesn’t use her electricity/lightning as protection (for her or others) but when she’s fighting alone, she exhales a force-field like it’s nothing at all. Damn.
The meat and potatoes of this X-men comparison is those new bloods recruited for the Scarlet Guard.
Ahem. You have a Mystique (shapeshifting), a Professor Xavier-lite (hallucinations), a Colossus (impenetrable skin), a Rogue/Leech (neutralizes abilities), a Banshee (sound manipulation), a Magneto-lite (I imagined this character flying like him), a Nightcrawler (teleportation), a Warpath (heightened senses), …and many more.
The worst thing of all?
Most of these Scarlet Guard inductees are token narrative pushers; that is, they’re conveniently placed so their abilities are a quick get out of jail free card. I could have done with at least one case of bad luck in being born with a useless ability, but nope, everyone has utility [for Mare] and though distinct, most lack the dialogue and presence to make them feel real and interesting over and beyond their quirks.
In terms of antagonists, villains push stories to feel more urgent, dire, important. But the problem Glass Sword suffers is removing that threat entirely. This book is a disservice to Maven and Queen Elara and all of the intricacy in their character frameworks established in Red Queen. I’ll just say this: Glass Sword just Grisha’d Maven because his role is nearly verbatim of what happened to Darkling in S&S. (re: you don’t really see much of him aside from the haunting dreams of doom and gloom and unwavering obsession).
Victoria Aveyard’s Glass Sword ends on a decent cliffhanger and it actually did surprise me a hell lot more than the “twist” in Red Queen (which totally had clues point to it). Good or bad, this one can read out of left field and has that shock factor.
Looking back, I can see this being that “bridge” book. Yeah the superficial setting and cast and many of the chess pieces have moved but the underlying element that makes the red queen “Red Queen”–the peculiarness and intrigue of caste-defining blood–remains unexplored. It’s surely a step forward even if the strides aren’t too lengthy.
Will I put myself through the hurt of the third book? …probably?
Again, I really wanted to enjoy Glass Sword. I’m not as angry as the comments above would have you believe, just disappointed and so the word vomit was necessary.