Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
This was an incredibly hard book to rate. Part of me wanted to give it one star, but another part of me has this grudging respect for the way she's taking the series.
This was not a fun read. I did not enjoy reading this book. That wasn't the biggest problem I had with it: the pace is unbearably slow, a chore to slog through, and the story... LOL, what story? It felt as if the entire plot, going into towns to find and rescue other Reds with powers, could have just been a footnote between the first and second books; instead, Aveyard decided to stretch it out over the entire considerable length of the book.
It's not like it ever seems to matter. The new characters are nonexistent, most aren't even named, only about three are given anything like personalities. I kept waiting for them to have any sort of impact on the story. They didn't, not individually, at least. As a mass entity, they form Mare's army, and are really only a plot device to move the very thin story along.
If the setting was interesting, maybe I wouldn't have noticed, but the landscape is as bare and cold, lifeless and drab, as the story itself. It's a far cry from the movement and intrigue of the first book. Like the setting, the book was a chore to slog through.
So why the rating I settled on? There are things that I really liked about it. Mare for instance. Not that I like Mare; far from it, actually. But, as a character, I find her an absolutely fascinating exercise in an author making a character as flawed and difficult to sympathize with as possible, completely intentionally. I also see her as the subversion of so many tropes, from the fact that she is not in any way a natural leader, to smaller things she thinks and does, like her pondering the fact that she hadn't thought of her parents for most of the novel (common in YA) and feeling guilty about it. And Maven. Ohhhh, Maven. Nothing gives the 'let me fix you with love!' trope the middle finger like Mare and Maven in this book.
As a matter of fact, guilt drives her. So does damage. In an extremely realistic way. And in that way, she relates to Cal. The problem I have with this is that I'll probably be asked to believe it as a real romance at some point, when it can actually never be so from this point on.
And all of this was so well done, if sort of bleakly crushing, that it made me wish it were in a better book. And it is bleak. So bleak it made me feel like rereading A Clash of Kings, ya know, for the LULZ.
I don't know if I'll be picking up the third book after this. I didn't buy this one, and I'm extremely happy about that, because there is no rereadability in this for me. And it's left me side-eyeing my copy of Red Queen on my shelf. I suppose I'll give it a try, just to see where the story goes. But it actually better go somewhere, because this book felt like repeatedly hitting my head against a wall and being asked to enjoy it.