Thursday, March 3, 2016

Review: Glass Sword

Glass Sword Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rise, red as the dawn.

A fair few of my friends, who have better connections than I do, were lucky enough to acquire this long-awaited Red Queen sequel in advance, but many of them confessed themselves quite disappointed. Based on this less-than-stellar reception, I was scared that I wouldn't enjoy the book either.

Well, I guess I didn't read the same book my friends did, because Glass Sword, for me, skips the Catching Fire prelude to the big war and goes right for the throat, starting the Mockingjay phase of the dystopian fantasy a little early to great effect. Aveyard's storytelling thus continues to validate my ongoing status as a passenger on this here hype train.

Sure, a lot of the complaints I saw about this book turned out to hold some water - for instance, insufficient world-building for the genre (it would really help if the official Norta map were published in every copy of every Aveyard book at this point. Like so:)

And also the considerable artistic license with the physics - I know at least one other reviewer questioned why Mare's lightning ability somehow includes disrupting electrical currents when that's not static electricity. As someone who got a D in Electricity and Magnetism - twice - I feel that it's a good complaint, but for the sake of the story, you just gotta go with it. Heck, I remember in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Electro's powers became hella godlike hella fast, with little regard for actual physics because holy crap the eye-popping visuals!

On the subject of TASM 2, I'd like to compare that movie to this book because they're both second installments to which I, along with many others, looked forward to with the greatest interest. Many others, after seeing the final product for both, didn't like it, and thought themselves hoodwinked by hype. I, however, enjoyed both TASM 2 and Glass Sword immensely, flaws and all, for two major reasons. One, while both are relatively long and, at times, a bit bloated with too many characters, both have a real knack for knowing when to jack up the maximum thrills and drop into my lap with a ball-busting KABOOM. And two, just as the action is injected into the right places like so much nitrous oxide, so too are the emotions. Especially near the end, when, just like in TASM 2, a major supporting character, to whom our protagonist is close, dies. (Incidentally, this particular character shares the same connection to Aveyard's protagonist that the character who suffers a major death at the end of my second book does to my protagonist - so if you've read Blue Monday but not this book, or vice versa, I may have just spoiled you. Sorry about that.)

More than just the emotions and action, however, are the book's villains, who really make Glass Sword the powerhouse it is. Especially, of course, Maven. I haven't seen Jessica Jones yet (no Netflix for me, sadly), but I'm led to believe that Kilgrave's got a sort of twisted love for Jessica that motivates him. To me, Maven (who I really want to stab through the chest, illegal and immoral though it may be) comes across the same way in the way he treats Mare. I can't imagine Jessica Jones had much influence on the writing of this book - I'm sure Aveyard was done long before November 2015 - but I get the feeling if she's seen it (and she probably has, because she's cooler than I am), it'll really help shape the way she sketches Maven and Mare for Book 3. The same, I think, goes for the absolutely amazing new USA series Colony, in which the guy we're conditioned to despise, Proxy Snyder, is the devil we know versus the even worse Bigger Bad higher-ups (like Maven, I think), and the people we're conditioned to root for, the Resistance, are pretty damn ruthless in the pursuit of freedom (like the Scarlet Guard.)

Yeah, you can totally tell Victoria Aveyard's a millennial writer. Our generation's best and brightest (Marie Lu, Veronica Roth, Brett Michael Orr, Taran Matharu, Adam Silvera, Sabaa Tahir, Sierra Daniels, etc.) have a way of crafting stories that borrow so liberally from so many other things, and yet still feel fresh and original in their own way.

So, Victoria Aveyard, thanks so much for putting together 400-plus pages with which I was able to waste an hour or two I could otherwise have spent trying to write important critical-theory essay. (Didn't Veronica Roth used to write Divergent when she was supposed to be doing schoolwork instead? I always use that as my go-to excuse for procrastination.) Seriously, this book just begged to be speed-read, from its ominous opening to its truly diabolical epilogue, to which I can only say this:

Some of my friends might be quite cautious about stepping back into Norta and further this time next year. But me? I'll be chomping at the bit to be first in line at the library just like I was for Glass Sword. We're halfway through this series now - and I don't count on leaving this fandom anytime soon.

Rise, red as the dawn.

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