Genre: YA Dystopia/Fantasy/Sci-fi
Red Queen (Book 1): Reds and Silvers are named for the color of their blood, and distinguished by the powers that the Silvers wield. That power puts the Silvers at the top of the class hierarchy, in a society that keeps Reds poor and uses them as cannon fodder in a war effort. Mare is a Red, trying to provide for her family. But unbeknownst to her, she also has the power of a Silver, and discovers that power in front of a large audience. To protect the integrity of the social order, the Silvers have to claim her as their own–but she isn’t. So can the powerful Silvers keep one girl in line? Or will Mare use her new position against them?
Glass Sword (Book 2): With a new king on the throne, things have gone from bad to worse. Mare and her allies are fleeing for their lives. A list of people with the same mutations as Mare–who bleed red but wield silver power–is in the hands of the enemy. Mare herself is shaken by a deep betrayal, unsure of whether anyone can be trusted anymore. She has a chance to inspire a people to fight, to save the lives of those like her who will be hunted–but that’s only if she can pull herself together enough to rally those closest to her around her plans. And instead of rising above, she’s falling apart.
Series: Book 2, book 1 reviewed here.
POV: First person.
The first book may have disguised its true grittiness under the facade of a quintessential story, but the second book doesn’t. Every scene in Glass Sword is laced with the characters’ pain. They’ve seen and done things to horrify themselves, and to horrify each other. This book is about the toll of it, and the hard decisions that continue to be made in order to bring about any change in the world.
It can be a brutal read, with trust in short supply among the characters. The most painful moments are when characters have to make sacrifices on someone else’s behalf, because it’s the only smart play to make. Mare, who used to be so brave and so willing to stand up for others, has become a harder character. It isn’t that she’s not brave or willing to stand up for anyone anymore, but she has to compromise herself in order to help more people. If she doesn’t, it’s game over, and she knows that. But man, those moments sting and I love that the book doesn’t shy away from that pain.
Glass Sword doesn’t shy away from pain at all. It thrives in how the circumstances, betrayal, and fear of more betrayal taint the relationships between the characters. In how a jaded group of people stumbles forward with disparate goals. We’re shown the wrecked ruins of a potential romance that was built on lies, and made to wonder if it’s even possible to come back from that. We’re shown the desperation in how our protagonists hold on to each other, as a direct result of how much was already taken from them.
With every new strain added to the bonds these characters have, I’m left wondering if any of these friendships will be left standing in the end–and the series has already proven that it would totally go there. It would burn the relationships between these characters to the ground if that was where the story needed to go. It’s awesome, because there’s real risk. I can’t be sure reading this that everything will be okay. In Game of Thrones, you never know which character might die. In this series, I don’t so much fear the characters might die (though I maybe should)–but I do fear that they might all come to hate each other. That’s also a powerful thing to have on the line.
The heart of the story is about the sacrifices and suffering inherent in overturning a world order revolution-style, and what it does to the people involved. It’s what makes the story so powerful. But of course, there’s more to the characters and their journeys than that.
It’s always refreshing when protagonists get to practice some intelligence or strategy, and Mare has learned from the first book–when she walked into court unprepared for the shifting alliances and power plays. Now, she can see the pieces moving around her and play a role that will serve her in the long run. She isn’t an expert at it–she misses things, and still sometimes moves impulsively. But she’s become a more cautious and tactical person overall.
Farley and Cal are even better at it. They’re better liars, and they read situations quicker. It’s fun to see all of them maneuvering about a very new terrain. And it’s also both exciting and nerve-wracking to know, that for all their skills, all three of them–Mare, Cal, and Farley–were played thoroughly by our bad guy. In the beginning of the book, where they’re presented with another lesser antagonist, I just so badly wanted them to have a win in their column.
This group of characters is awesome. For all that many of them come in caring about each other, they have to struggle to reconcile those feelings with who their friends and family become when life or death is on the line. Here, love is easy, but like is hard.
I still feel a lingering sense of loss after finishing the book. This series is really good at tragedy. At tying the characters together with loyalty, love, or purpose, but tearing them apart through disagreements, pain, or past animosity. Fantastic read.
“My enemies know me best, and my family doesn’t know me at all.”