[Review] Glass Sword — Victoria Aveyard

Book Title:       Glass Sword (Red Queen #02)
Author:           Victoria Aveyard
Number of pages:  448

Synopsis:

glass-sword-victoria-aveyard-book-coverMare 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.

(re: Goodreads @ Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard)


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)

glass-sword-victoria-aveyard-scorecard-600x300

Initial Thoughts

Oh look, the bringer of negativity is back. Glass Sword didn’t redeem the shortcomings of Red Queen (2/5 review here). I seriously wanted to like this book, okay?

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 :(!)


Afterthoughts:

Premise

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 ClassWhile 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.


Setting

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):

red-queen-victoria-aveyard-map-of-norta-comparison

The problem isn’t that signs aren’t there; the locations hint at them but it doesn’t necessarily identify them as being canonHaven (“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.


Narration

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 GirlHer 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.

I lied.

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. 


Characters

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).


Overall

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.


Cheers,
Joey

connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads

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47 thoughts on “[Review] Glass Sword — Victoria Aveyard”

  1. INTERESTING *avoided spoilers*. I’m interested to see what I’ll think of this book. I remember when Maven went dark I was so shocked, it’s so weird.

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    1. Haha, I totally get why you would avoid reading the review — I’d probably do the same (but have no fear if you do find yourself curious to read it, there are no spoilers…I think).

      Maven evolving into the villain felt right to me and wasn’t that much of a shocker. But yes I do hope you enjoy Glass Sword!

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  2. I loved this review despite all your negativity. It actually makes me want to read Glass Sword more. That’s probably weird, but I want to see if I see the same things. I’m not very familiar with X-Men, so maybe it’ll be different for me. Really, I just want to know what the twist is! Lol.
    And I still read “Bone Marrow” every time I see “Mare Barrow.” Is it just me?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good that negative thoughts make you want to read it LOL. Means I didn’t completely fail in promoting this book, right?

      I’m positive you’ll probably enjoy it more as I’m always in the minority when it comes to these opinions; much the same happened with Truthwitch. Aye.

      I called her “Mare of House Barrow, relative of House Wheel” in my Red Queen review or something like that.

      EITHER WAY, ENJOY!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was probably close to the same time. I feel like I’m always the naysayer to hype so I was happy you agreed it didn’t live up to it (though also, you know, disappointed that it didn’t live up to it). I put a little more faith in your assessment than maybe some other’s since we had similar reactions on the first book.

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    1. Perhaps. I didn’t know this was four books until recently and I’m like wondering if Glass Sword is really just “book 1.5”. You can supplement reading this with watching X-Men: First Class — because it basically did what XM:FC did to the X-Men franchise. And at least you’d have your choice of Fassbender, JLaw, Hoult, McAvoy to tide you over…

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  3. Well, you know I agreed with on you on the score, and I daresay you took this apart more than I did – the notes on the world/map are spot-on, because it wasn’t until after reading Glass Sword – TWO whole books into a trilogy – that I discovered it was all post-apoc America. I might have looked at the book differently had I known this.

    I agree with everything else – as usual, a really awesome review!

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    1. If that electricity/lightning nonsense bugged me as much as it did for you I could have totally written a post about it (separate to the review) but alas, I didn’t care that much for it haha.

      I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW I DIDN’T NOTICE THE MAP THING. Well no, that’s not true…I only remember going north and south and here and there but never anything concrete enough to say otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember everything being near Delphie for some reason. For me, it’s more than just not knowing there was a map and knowing where things were in relation – it was the entire IDEA that this was a post-apoc North America, which completely changes the context in which I understand the world.

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  4. Oh Joey. It sounds like this one was really disappointing, I don’t know if I’ll bother with it tbh because I was quite disappointed with Red Queen. That one wasn’t that original and it sounds like this one is exactly the same, and although it expands on the world, the lack of explaining the powers annoys me. And Mare is annoying me already just from your comments.

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  5. LOL What a great satire! X’D I was laughing so hard at the Scarlet Guards being compared to X-Men but at the same time, bobbing my head yes to each one.

    Ahh Aveyard still hasn’t learned her lessons, no? It’s apparent this story is another mash up of good fantasies. Ugh your description on Mare made me thought of Alina, boring and obnoxious (apologies to fans)!

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  6. Haha, great review, Joey! I surprisingly liked Red Queen quite a bit, so hopefully I’ll like this one. Loved your review! ^.^

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  7. It surprises me to hear you say that the ending was surprising. I read the ARC and all I was thinking throughout the novel was the fact that it was a series of 4 books and how the only way that would make sense would be

    ***SPOILERS****
    if Mare ended up enslaved by Maven. And what a best way to appeal to young adult reader’s obsession with creepy evil male significant others than this?

    And that’s what ended up happening. I’m just a little tired of this trope. I’m a little interested in seeing how the story moves on after this but I’m leaning towards relationship development between Mare and Maven in book 3 (Maven loves her) and am calling a Cal rescuing Mare scenario or Maven having a change of heart and letting her go free… or even better, Mare murdering Maven and escaping.

    Aveyard is very VERY good at writing action scenes- sometimes it feels like these scenes are all I’m reading the book for.

    Either way, the series continues and I’m sure that those shipping-heavy fans will have much to look forward to in the coming books.

    (Am I the only one who doesn’t understand when Cal and Maven started to like Mare? I really think I missed that in the first book, like it felt really sudden when Mare found herself kissing Cal in the dancing scene…)

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    1. The ending was surprising in a “let’s just pull the rug from underneath everyone” type of moment. I actually didn’t know it was a 4-book series until weeks after I finished reading it, so while I do understand its intent and the potential avenue to explore Maven as the actual “need to fix him” romance for Mare, my mindset was that while there surely had to be a cliffhanger, it just seemed like a “oh shucks, you caught me!” type of moment that was just like…what?

      But you could be right in saying that Maven could be end game because on the page, I don’t recall him physically doing any of the evil deeds rather than just villain-y monologue-ing his greatness. That could be one of the bigger twists in the Red Queen franchise. Maybe. The “she saves him” nonsense.

      The love-V in this story is quite tedious but you know how it is with popular rags-to-riches, can’t-decide-between-two-brother etc. etc. etc. tropes. We love them. And so we’ll continue to read them LOL.

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  8. Okay… I don’t know how I feel about this 😦 ! When I saw you gave it 1.75 I was like NOOOOOO! But then I remembered you really really didn’t like Red Queen last year, which cheered me up! Cause I really enjoyed Red Queen so maybe I’ll have the opposite feeling then you did towards Glass Sword as well!! **crosses all fingers**
    It is disappointing to hear Mare is still supper wishie washie – bummer!

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