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?
I had a lot of high hopes about Glass Sword; convinced that Aveyard would be able to grow from Red Queen. Sadly, I was wrong. Mare is not an interesting enough character to carry a series, and Aveyard is not a good enough author to bounce back from Glass Sword.
I am well aware that the YA fantasy pool is largely fluffy romances disguised as fantasy, but I am usually able to find something I like about a book regardless. This is one of the rare instances where I’m stumped for something nice to say. “This book was a hot mess” is probably the nicest thing I can say about it, considering it is a hodge-podge of basically every young adult fantasy book that came before it.
My main problem with Glass Sword is that Mare is so damn unlikeable. Now, I am all for unlikeable protagonists that worm their way into your heart – the one that immediately comes to mind is Katniss Everdeen. She kept everyone at arm’s length, including the reader, but she still managed to make you love her. Mare is not that kind of unlikeable. She’s arrogant, whiny, self-indulgent and rude – there’s no space for any other character, because she demands your full attention. She treats her brothers like brutes, her parents like simpletons, and those around her as if they are constantly in her way. She doesn’t allow other, more experienced, individuals to voice their opinions – her opinion is the only one that is worth anything. She doesn’t listen to those around her, and then complains when things don’t go her way. It is frustrating as a reader to have to spend 400+ pages with someone so awful.
The secondary characters are so bland that it is impossible to keep track of who is who and why they are important to the very thin plot, which is mildly problematic when a new character is being introduced every few pages. Both the characters and scenes exist only to further Mare’s mission, which is tiresome and dull. The writing is contrived and derivative. Multiple characters died, and their deaths had zero emotional impact on me.
There is very little world building – it’s hard for me to situate myself in the story, given that we jump around from location to location. A map would be handy, given how much Mare moves around, and I’ve read middle-grade books that provide its readers with a map. It’s a nitpicky thing, but when the scene setting is as abysmal as Aveyard’s, it comes in handy.
There is nothing special about Mare as a heroine – you can shelve her amongst the other forgettable YA heroines. Aveyard has attempted to create a morally questionable, mysterious, super special heroine that will be the next big name in YA. If you’d like a morally questionable heroine, check out Isaboe and Quintana in The Lumatere Chronicles. Both got less page time than Mare, and both made a better impression. If you’d like a heroine with a bit of mystery surrounding her, try The Colours of Madeleine. If you want a super special heroine, stick with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Basically, I can think of a dozen authors who write better characters – better stories – than Aveyard, despite getting less recognition.
Much like its predecessor, Glass Sword introduces the action far too late. This time, the cliffhanger ending wasn’t enough to save it, nor make me want to read the next book. It is a run-of-the-mill young adult fantasy that does nothing to distinguish itself from the crowd. You’d be better off saving your money.
Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.