Thursday, 2 February 2017

BOOK REVIEW: GLASS SWORD BY VICTORIA AVEYARD


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?





Let the record show that my hopes for this book were high, despite the utter lack of originality. The setup for Glass Sword was straight out of Shadow and Bone, and as someone who enjoys the Grishaverse, I had reason to hope.

Alas, Mare has taught me what a fleeting mistress hope can be. (By repeating it. Forty times.)

But first, the good:

The cover, as usual, is gorgeous. If the content between the front and back cover was as good as said covers, Red Queen would rate right up there with my favorite series. Alas.

The world is now sci-fi/dystopian. Given the amount of books that Red Queen (#1) channeled, the world could never seem to decide if it wanted to be historical fantasy or dystopian. In Glass Sword, it seems to have settled on dystopian. Mare does occasionally butcher the continuity by wondering about "the metal boxes that stay up in the air" only to name specific parts of a plane five seconds later. But for the most part, it's solidly dystopian (touchscreen computers and everything) and solidly Mockingjay. It hasn't gained in originality, but it's settled on a genre. Progress.

Victoria Aveyard is exceptionally kind to fast readers. Speeding through books means that we occasionally miss out on a detail or two (or five or twenty). But in Glass Sword, everything is repeated a minimum of thirty times, so there's absolutely no chance of missing out.

"Anyone can betray anyone." (approx. count: 739)
"Trust no one." (approx. count: 591)
"Little lighting girl." (approx. count: 517)
"He's evil, but I miss the boy he used to be." (approx. count: 501)

Cameron. In the interest of not spoiling anything, I will say only this: she thinks what I think, and she isn't afraid to say it. I want her as a protagonist. That would make for a far more interesting series, really.

Cal. (Yes, you read this right.) I won't go so far as to say that Cal has morphed into a thoroughly fascinating character for me. But where most all other characters have regressed, he alone made headway towards development and found his missing two dimensions. His perspective in Glass Sword was easily the only perspective that matched the situation(s) and his past experiences. I got Cal. I understood Cal. Cal made sense. 

*

But the fun ends there.

Glass Sword drags. It drags like Remi Gaillard in a snail suit on a highway during rush hour. Nobody is a stranger to the famous Filler-Book trope, especially in dystopian trilogies. But Glass Sword gives Filler-Book a whole new meaning. Practically all altercations are postponed and postponed again in favor of the final few pages (and presumably the sequel). In the interim, we are treated to traveling, moping, more traveling, romantic angst, and endless recruiting of "the specials" straight out of X-Men: First Class.

Unlike X-Men: First Class, however, the whole notion of these gifted people in a society that hunts them was terribly convenient. Practically none of the recruits had personality (or, really, lines of dialogue), but their abilities were perfectly suited to get Mare out of whatever scrape she was about to get herself into. And unlike X-Men, there are no self-destructive abilities.

Mare herself, in the meantime, lacked any and all agency. This isn't the protagonist who sets things in motion. This is the protagonist to whom things happen. She does have plenty of motivation to do things, but she has no drive. She's a lethargic sack of potatoes. It feels like she's either being forced to bring about change, or like she has to be dragged along. She has no leadership qualities to sell her as a Mockingjay, which this series has been attempting all along. 

Mare, in fact, is probably my least favorite YA protagonist of all time. And I don't say this lightly. Many a Bella Swan, America Singer, Nora, Luce, etc. has been a contender for this top spot. But in Glass Sword, Mare has dethroned them all. Never has a character felt more entitled (to the point of self-martyrdom) while throwing so many pity-parties. Mare genuinely feels like the speshulest of the speshul snowflakes - she repeatedly emphasizes that she is worth more than anyone else (in these exact words). But then she'll feel so endlessly sorry for herself and for "what happened to her" (I'm still unclear on this severe trauma that fuels her behavior) at every turn. She oscillates between grandiose and woe-is-me attitudes endlessly. I nearly choked laughing when she lamented that "Maven had stolen her ability to smile". WHEN HAS THIS CHARACTER EVER SMILED?! But all this is only natural when Mare truly and sincerely hates her friends. In this I thought Bella Swan would never be surpassed, but Mare once again proves me wrong. This girl looks down on everyone else to such sprawling lengths that her perspective at times read truly alarming.

And despite it all, Glass Sword is an Everybody Loves Mare show. On the one hand, the romance is well-written insofar as I have no idea where Victoria Aveyard is going with it. In books this derivative, romance tends to be predictable. Not so in Glass Sword. But in every other aspect, the romance was this book's pitfall. For one, the romantic angst that was already too pronounced in Red Queen is heightened in Glass Sword, to soap-opera levels. And for another, despite this love square, there's nobody for me to really root for. Mare looks down on Kilorn worse than perhaps anyone else. With Cal, the romance was painted as convenience more than anything. (Also, I can't envision a universe in which Mare deserves a guy that nice.) And Maven...

Ah, Maven. Such potential wasted. Maven's arc and his development in Red Queen was never original, but it opened up so many possibilities. It constituted about 90% of the reason I continued on with the series after Red Queen left me on the fence. But here in this second book, Maven's entire cause centered around Mare. From this larger-than-life villain, Maven was reduced to a spoiled kid with an unrequited crush which he won't accept. And so the door closes on the biggest hope I had for this series as a whole.

Goodbye

So that's me done. Worse than all else was the feeling Glass Sword left me with. There have been many books I've liked less than Glass Sword, but never before have I wished I could unread a book. Mostly it was due to Glass Sword having raised me to a height of indifference I thought I could never achieve. One way or another, I desperately need to care. And in this series, I just can't manage it. I guess it's time we went our separate ways. But to all who enjoyed it - because plenty of my friends did - I wish all the best with book #3. 




It should be said that I had an ARC of Glass Sword, read it ahead of its release date, was the first to give it a negative rating on Goodreads, but took until now to post this rant-posing-as-a-review. Because I hoped distance and months of reflection would make the heart grow fonder. Alas, they have not. And here we are.

I want to hear from you, pumpkins - especially you who were driven less crazy (and potentially delighted?) by Glass Sword and the path Red Queen is now on. What are your expectations for the finale? Who are you rooting for? And how did you end up rating Glass Sword? Leave us a comment below and let us know, or find us and admonish us for being so, so very evil on social media far and wide:


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