I had a hard time settling into Aveyard’s world in her first novel, Red Queen, but I was completely entranced once I arrived. It took me about fifty pages or so. As the second book in the series, Glass Sword is no less well-crafted or exciting than the first–in fact, there may be more get-up-and-go action in this second novel than there was in the first–but unfortunately, my original hardships immersing myself in Aveyard’s fantasy world struck again.
It was worth the wait.
In Red Queen, protagonist Mare Barrow is discovered to have the powers of a Silver (the super-powered elite) despite her status as a Red (the oppressed working class). She is forced to pose as a Silver and hide her identity while the Silvers try to figure out what she is and how to control her. Meanwhile, a rebel force known as the Scarlet Guard is rising up against the Silver tyranny, and Mare joins their cause. In Glass Sword, Mare is more entrenched than ever with the Scarlet Guard and on a frantic mission–along with Cal, the former Silver prince–to find other Reds with powers like hers before the Silvers do. All the while, Maven, the new Silver king and Mare’s former trusted friend and fiancé, is giving chase and, to put it simply, messing with Mare’s head.
It’s all very exciting, but it took me about fifteen chapters to really delve into the story. In this case, though, I’m glad I kept reading. At one point, I became so engrossed that when I glanced up, I was very surprised to see my own face in the mirror, instead of Mare’s or Cal’s. (True story.) That’s a hallmark of good storytelling–when you are no longer just reading about the characters, because for that brief and magical period of time, you are the characters.
To be honest, though, I don’t like Mare’s character. That’s why I love her. I would estimate that roughly 95 percent of YA heroines only have one or both of two flaws to try to make them seem less perfect: the character flaw of stubborn recklessness, or the physical “flaw” of being short. They either make hasty decisions to protect their loved ones no matter the cost, or they have trouble reaching the cookie jar from the top of the fridge, but at the end of the day, the heroines are still, well, heroines. And in the genre of YA, no matter how much we (and by “we,” of course I mean “I”) love them, they begin to look the same.
But not Mare. Mare feels real hurts, has real flaws, and sometimes makes bad decisions. Many of Mare’s decisions are not ones other heroines would have made. One example for contrast: when threatened with the murder of innocents unless she turns herself in to the bad guys, Tris Prior (from Veronica Roth’s Divergent series) walked immediately and directly into the trap, as have numerous other heroes and heroines. As well they should. Mare, on the other hand, refuses to be baited, refuses to play by the enemy’s rules, and refuses to hand herself over and thus throw a wrench in the rebellion’s plans and potential victory.
I’m not saying the rest of the novel isn’t a little stereotypical: a shy but undeniably special girl–a girl who is in love with one good guy and one bad guy, even though we aren’t sure yet who is who–becomes the face of a rebellion and a spearhead for social change so that the segregated masses can all live as one in peace. It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
But maybe there’s a reason we see so many books like this. Our world is in a state of constant change, and maybe young people need to read stories of courageous young souls who fight for what they believe in. There is a quote by C.S. Lewis that reads, “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Glass Sword has no shortage of either, as well as a good dose of fantasy, excitement, and romance thrown in for good measure.