Heart of Betrayal
Mary E Pearson
Square Fish (9781250080028)
I liked this second book of The Remnant Chronicles FAR better than I did the first, and I already enjoyed Kiss of Deception a lot despite some pacing and character issues (see the review here). The issues I had with it were dealt with before the end of the book, and that left the second novel, Heart of Betrayal, wide open to be as good as it wanted to be. And it wanted to be pretty good., if you ask me.
By the end of Kiss of Deception, Lia had shed her previous persona to become both determined and vengeful. But vengeful in the smart way, biding her time and making strategic decisions so that when it would all end, she would come out of it the undoubted victor, making sure everyone would pay for their actions according to the crimes they have committed. Not just against her personally, but to the safety of all nations. And Lia kept to that missive for the duration of Heart of Betrayal, which means that her wobbly character traits from book one are now smoothed out and focused.
I found it to be very believable that this girl was buddingly capable of bluffing her way into and out of the Komizar’s presence. Lia has already shown herself to be strong minded, true to her goals and whip smart. She has laid false tracks when they thought they could easily hunt her, her brothers have taught her how to sneak, pick locks and play cards, and she has been a girl in a king’s world for all of her life. She knows how to navigate those of power, and her hatred of the Vendans’ actions give her ample motivation to actually do it.
Of course, those Vendan actions and motivations become slightly muddled as she meets more and more people who are essentially good, kind and even welcoming. Mostly with Kaden, who is a walking contradiction (but in a good way). I cannot understand why that boy keeps thinking he has a chance with Lia, but she makes good use of him feeling the way he does. That she still feels slightly guilty makes sure Lia herself doesn’t go over the edge the Komizar obviously has left behind years ago. Speaking of which, the way the Komizar’s character is revealed piece by piece, from a man you think you could reason with to a stone cold killer who cares about no one – not even himself – is truly well written.
I consider all of these characters well written, and Mary E Pearson builds Vendan society with the same expert hand. I am a bit fearful of how she is going to tie everything in together, because there are some reveals of deep seated treason that felt a bit rushed to me, less well built than her main plot. But that is something we will discover in the third book. I find it compelling that for some time I can choose not to read a new installment, but once I am in the middle of reading the book, I cannot stop and think of nothing else. It’s a bit of a different experience for me, as if I have to take it in with some pauses in between.
I really like the way Lia keeps making the best out of curve balls, getting control of the situation and then playing it to her own advantage. But also that Lia understands she cannot do it alone. She is constantly on her toes, and is not afraid to ask for help. She knows that by herself, she has no chance of escaping Venda, and especially not the Komizar. That in the end there are some things she does do herself, shows how capable we all can be when confronted with our breaking point. And I must say, it was a good reason. One that broke my heart, but these books have always been big on the personal sacrifices. The death of Walther, Greta and their unborn baby proves that.
I am very curious to read the final book in this trilogy, because I have read from the back cover that once again our setting is different and other goals must be achieved. When Mary E Peason pulls this off, she has given us a diverse storyline that makes each book bring something new to the table. Her second book is better than her first, in which I felt she still needed to get the hang of her own writing and plot. Now she has it fully in hand, and I for one would love to see her bring it home in Beauty of Darkness.