Mare is being held prisoner by King Maven. She lives out her life trapped in the Palace, lightning suppressed by Silent Stone, and tortured by the whispers Merandus family. The Scarlet Guard is growing, expanding their operations. Once they were confined to the Lakelnds, now everyone in Norta know their name and they’re spreading to the kingdom of Piedmont. Cal, the exiled prince and one of the Guard’s strongest strategists, will stop at nothing to get Mare back. But once he’s got her, will his allegiances remain with the Scarlet Guard?
Is the writing style any better than the first two books? Not really. Is the world-building any more developed? Eh. Am I any more attached to these characters than I was in the first book? Heavens no. So why did I like this book any better than the first two?
I think the answer to that question can be summed up in one word: Maven. Let’s make one thing very clear: I couldn’t care less about this love triangle. I am so unattached to these characters, it hurts. Reading about their love life is so dull. But I did enjoy the insight into the mad king’s mind.
Maven is a lost little boy without Elara. She stripped him of anything that made him real. She took his fears and desires and emotions, and she filled his mind with what she thought would make him powerful. Elara loved her son, I know that. She did what she thought was best for him and for her family’s image of power. The Silvers decided a long time ago that love was weakness. So the queen took that from Maven. She turned him into this empty, plastic little boy filled with blackness and hate. And if there’s one thing Aveyard has shown she can write in a book, it’s plastic characters.
I liked the politics. I enjoyed watching the Silver High Houses continue to fight amonst themselves and alter their allegiances. It took Mare far too long to realize the war with Lakeland was less about resources than it was about oppressing Reds. Remember 1984? A constant war is the perfect distraction to tyranny and oppression; the people hate the enemy more than their own country. But Maven ending that fake war was genius. The people celebrate peacetime and the king that brought it to them. It was a great way for him to garner support where before he had none. In a way, what was probably meant to be filler was one of the most interesting parts of the novel.
Cal actually shows some kind of emotion besides rage in this one, so that’s something. We get to see him being the excellent strategist we’ve been hearing about. Cal finds himself shirtless more than once in this book, which was fun. He finally made a choice this time around. And he chose what everyone knew he would in the long run, even if so many Red Queen fans are disappointed by it. Does he love Mare? Sure. Does that mean anything to a Silver? No.
I still can’t stand Mare. She continues to be as self-deprecating as ever. That’s all I really have to say on the matter.