This is not the review I had hoped to write. Red Queen was, and still is, one of my favorite books of 2015 – an exciting cross-over genre of dystopian fantasy, drawing on the roots of typical fantasy but adding gentle touches of Science Fiction. The original earned a coveted place in my Best of 2015 books, and I still recommend it as an excellent YA novel – sadly, I cannot say the same of the sequel, Glass Sword.
I received Glass Sword thanks to the immense generosity of Hachette Australia, and for months, I had hyped myself for Glass Sword, expecting a novel that would surpass the original’s greatness – and instead, I found myself disappointed.
Glass Sword is not Red Queen. With the exception of the characters, I struggled to find anything to link the clever dystopian fantasy of the original to the strange mess that is the sequel. The pacing ranges from horrendously slow to jumping between scenes so badly that, at one point, a major villain spontaneously appears dead in the very next scene, with no apparent cause-of-death.
Mare Barrow returns as a ‘newblood’ – a combination of mundane Red-blood, and superpowered Silver-blood, in Red Queen’s world of social divide. Her chief power is the control over electricity – despite her nickname being ‘lightning girl’, which is scientifically incorrect given her ability to control electrical devices such as cameras. I didn’t expect a completely physics-accurate Sci-Fi novel, but given that static and current electricity are two different concepts, it was something that continually irked me.
The ‘big bad’ villain, Maven, is barely anywhere to be seen in Glass Sword, nor his wicked-witch-of-the-West mother, Queen Elara. It’s frustrating to see an enigmatic and well-written character like Maven vanish into the background, and even more frustrating given that 95% of the novel is thus spent with our characters terrified of a man they basically never see.
Glass Sword brings a whole roster of new characters on board, with their newblood powers varying wildly in power and scale. The whole thing felt like X-Men, and not in the good way. After a while, it seemed like the new characters’ powers were simply invented to fit a specific problem in the plot – super hearing, gravity bending, shape-shifting, ability silencing, invulnerability, and the power to control death; these are just some of the powers shown in Glass Sword, many of which belong to characters that barely last more than a few scenes before vanishing abruptly.
Perhaps I could forgive the dragging plot, the rampant superpowers, the hamstrung romance, and endless repetition of key phrases in the prose, if only the world itself had been that beautiful dystopian fantasy I loved so much. Sadly, from about the fifth page of Glass Sword, it’s clear that the fantasy elements of Red Queen – the castles, the balls, the Kings and Queens, the immaculate gowns and sweeping halls – are all completely gone. Instead, the reader is thrust into a straight-up post-apocalyptic dystopian Sci-Fi that, at times, felt more like a Hunger Games fan fiction.
I honestly wish I had more positive things to say. My enduring love for the original book made me continue reading long past the point when I wanted to put Glass Sword down, and although the plot moved quicker during the final chapters of the novel, it was far too late to have a meaningful impact on my experience.
Depending on what you loved or loathed about Red Queen will determine whether you dive head-first into Glass Sword. The early reviews are conflicting at best, and I, as always, encourage you to read the book yourself and make a decision based on your own opinions – but for now, Glass Sword scores only 2 out of 5 stars.
The action sequences are explosively fun, and for the little time Maven is featured, he remains a wickedly entertaining villain.
Everything I loved about the original is gone; the plot is confusing and disorientating, the superpowers are rampant and the characters are meaningless.
A disappointing sequel to one of my most-loved novels. Brief moments of action and intrigue cannot make up for the meandering plot or abrupt change in overall genre.