Glass Sword is the sequel to Victoria Aveyard’s gripping fantasy-ish novel, Red Queen, which was overall pretty good. Aveyard proved herself a talented storyteller in the first installment, and I was curious to see what kind of trouble Mare Barrow would get herself into this time. Spoilers ahead.
If nothing else, Aveyard is certainly consistent. Much of what I noted in Red Queen is echoed in Glass Sword — Mare keeps herself firmly guarded, the beginning often feels a bit too introspective and long-winded, and the climax is fantastic.
To further break it down, I had some trouble connecting with Glass Sword at first, largely because of protagonist Mare Barrow. Upon the book’s opening, she faces multiple life-or-death situations, a fragile emotional state, and the inability to trust anyone. While the reader can forgive this, given the shocking journey we accompanied her on in the first book, Mare’s closed-off persona, even as a first-person protagonist, makes her difficult to like at times. This is especially true for every time we see the multiple side characters try to coax her into talking about her feelings or trusting them. This puts the reader in a bit of an awkward situation where they can’t tell whether to trust Mare’s questionable judgement or the side characters’ questionable offers.
More questions arise as the plot unfolds and Mare and her intrepid band of underdogs go across the country searching for the Newbloods, with the intention of rescuing them from jerk-face Maven’s crazy murder spree (because none of us can get over the Maven reveal, especially not Mare). As they flew around in their stolen plane collecting recruits for their own little island of misfit toys, I couldn’t help but constantly wonder what they were hoping to accomplish. This question was repeated by several side characters, and Mare never seemed to have a good answer. I’m almost inclined to think that Aveyard didn’t know where this plot was going either, since she introduced a deus ex machina device in the form of a clairvoyant Newblood who suddenly rerouted the plot. And Mare believed him without question. Okay…
Any misgivings I had up to this point were instantly forgiven once I reached the last 100 or so pages, however, because Aveyard is a master at writing climaxes (take note, Gaider). The raid on Corros Prison is everything the Mass Effect 2 suicide mission should have been. One of my favorite aspects of writing is character relationships and team dynamics. It’s why I love things like roleplaying games and The Avengers. There’s something so satisfying about watching individuals in a team come together with their specific roles and working as a single unit, each piece fitting in its own perfect place like a machine. Mare’s island of misfit toys comes together beautifully in a thrilling sequence of action, suspense, tragedy, and consequences. Finally Mare is forced to face the moral and emotional consequences of her actions, something that too few actiony stories address. Mare killed people, and the narrative points out that this is not okay and that she is significantly changed by it. It’s remarkably satisfying to watch her take responsibility for her actions, considering how much horror has ensued as a result of her actions and associations. If nothing else, these few chapters make the book absolutely worth reading.
The epilogue left me feeling a little confused, though. I’m not sure where she will go with the next book, but I have a feeling that it will not be pleasant for Mare.