The Remnant Chronicles #2
Mary E. Pearson
Henry Holt & Co.
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save her life, Lia's erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.
Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: there's Rafe, who lied to Lia, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be barbarians. Now that she lives amongst them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.
The Heart of Betrayal is a bit of a tricky sequel, picking up the exact moment the first book left off and continuing Lia's story without the benefit of any recap. Those (like me) for whom it's been a year in between books will likely struggle to settle in, trying desperately to recount the finer details of past events and stumbling at the mention of characters who don't ring as loud a bell in our memories as we need in order to feel emotionally invested. The fact that this second installment is a bit slower in its pace only adds to our difficulties, failing to reach out and grab us to the degree that our inability to recall certain aspects of its predecessor becomes irrelevant, instead leaving us without the anchor we so desperately need.
That being said however, Lia is still an enjoyable heroine, playing it smart while in enemy territory by using silence as a weapon, largely keeping her mouth shut and evaluating all that's shared in order to fill the dead air. She's willful when necessary though, showing the Komizar and everyone else that her spine is not lacking in steel and that she will not break as easily as they so clearly expected. When it comes to the romance, Lia's feelings are clear throughout, but the hint of a triangle remains because she must play a role in order to protect herself and the one she loves, keeping the three of them riding a razor's edge of tension that at any minute might end up cutting them all to shreds.
The main issue keeping this tale from a higher rating aside from the lack of any small reminders to help us recall book one is the fact that Rafe, Lia and Kaden are all in a holding pattern for majority of the book. Rafe and Lia spend their days in Venda waiting for Rafe's friends to sneak in and help them escape, and while we're grateful the two of them realize such an endeavor is far more than two people can handle on their own and therefore don't make any easily avoidable mistakes, we don't learn all that much as they bide their time. A few chess pieces are moved though, and the Komizar proves to be a character of depth and complexity who piques our curiosity whenever he appears on page, keeping us flipping the pages in the hopes that a little action will be waiting for us.
Overall, The Heart of Betrayal is a bit slower moving than The Kiss of Deception, a book that is a rumble of thunder on the horizon, warning us of the storm that is to come in the final installment.
*Full disclosure: I've been in a bit of a YA reading slump of late, so this very well could have been more me than the story itself. Anyone who loved book one should definitely give this a try!
This book was sent to me by the author free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.