Review: The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Genre: young adult fantasy
Format/Source: ARC, publisher
Status: book 2 of the Remnant Chronicles trilogy

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.

Hot damn! So I've been hearing for AGES that I needed to read The Kiss of Deception, needed to read it blah blah blah (thanks, Holly! :P). A few months ago, I read it, and.... I was underwhelmed. I thought the world was intriguing and the characters complex, but the plot and pace were a miss for me. It was still enjoyable, but it dragged on. That made me pretty nervous for The Heart of Betrayal, but it limited my expectations, which was a good thing because Betrayal absolutely knocked my socks off. It was everything I wanted Deception to be AND MORE.

The characters. Look, you know you have a good cast of characters on your hands when you want literally everyone to have a happily-ever-after, and you even kind of like the bad guy. Am I crazy? No. Well, maybe, but not about this. First of all, Lia is one smart and tough cookie. I love that her intelligence is proven by the moves she makes and very calculated risks she takes (sometimes she comes out wrong, but I'm okay with her not being infallible or perfect). She doesn't put up with the male characters' sexist bullshit, even her swoony boyfriend's usually well-meaning sexist bullshit. She's compassionate. If you were dragged off to a foreign land full of guys who want to kill you and do other terrible things to you, would you learn to love the people? Prob not. Lia is special, and not just because there's kind of a prophecy about her specialness. Mad props to Lia's adorable and loving older brothers for all their older brother teachings like how to use a sword and play cards and do other things that older brothers teach their little sisters. Most of all, I like that Lia trusts herself. So many times women and girls are second-guessed often enough that we start to believe we're wrong automatically. Despite Lia hearing from everyone that she's wrong, she knows what's up, and she trusts her own instincts and experiences, even though she unfamiliar with her gift. Rock on, girlfriend. You're killing it!

As for the guys, I don't swoon as hard over Rafe or Kaden as I do over characters in other series, but I still really like them. Rafe is so sweet. I love how much he cares for Lia, and he's trying to do the best he can for everyone. I really felt for him in one scene in particular, and I am so impressed with his intelligence and poker face as well. His small band of brothers is really fun to read about as well. Their camaraderie is inspiring and adorable. Kaden is so much more complex, and I fully appreciate the difficulty of the position he's in. His dad was clearly a bad person so I understand he feels loyalty to the Komizar who rescued him from his traumatic past. However... the Komizar is a bad person too. I think. Maybe? Poor Kaden. He's in love with Lia, but he's trapped by his loyalty and love for his kingdom. And the Komizar, well, I am absolutely fascinated by him. He's clearly pretty evil, but also not? Like Kaden, he's so complex. On one hand, he's always threatening to kill Lia. On the other, he obviously cares about his people. Lia is not one of his people so I'll allow that he's not super pro-Lia. Why should he be when her kingdom systematically oppresses his? And–I'll admit it–he's pretty sexy. Rafe and Kaden don't ooze sex appeal, but the Komizar kind of does. He's like a rock-star-bad-boy-king, and I dig that.

I also really like the secondary characters like Griz, Aster, and Calantha. Obviously most of the time in the book is spent developing the major players, but I like when supporting character feel well-rounded and complex, that they have things in their life aside from helping the mc's. Fully-formed side characters lend credibility to the world, and I definitely think that Griz, a warrior with suspect loyalties, sweet Aster, and bold Calantha in particular push the boundaries of the world Mary has created (in a good way, of course).

As for the plot, I like that there's more going on this time. More characters means more pieces on the Remnants chess board, more political drama, more at stake. In Deception, I really felt like the plot stalled several times. It dragged on at the inn, it dragged on during the travel across Cam Lanteaux. Betrayal keeps it moving, and having a large and diverse cast helped accomplish that. Mary mixes the characters in each scene, sometimes keeping it small and intimate, sometimes large and complicated, and I felt like everyone got to have a little bit of spotlight, and it helped me understand the motivations for each character and their intended goals. Also, instead of the dreaded curse of the second book, in which middle books tend to keep the plot in a holding pattern, Betrayal pushed the plot toward a surely electrifying finale in which the fate of all the kingdoms and their inhabitants is questionable at best.

Who will live? Who will die? Which kingdom will come out on top? I have no idea right now, but I can't wait to find out! The Heart of Betrayal is one part fantasy, one part romance, one part political thriller and 100% awesome. I HIGHLY recommend you give it a try!

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About the Author:
Mary E. Pearson is the award-winning author of The Jenna Fox Chronicles, The Miles Between, A Room on Lorelei, and Scribbler of Dreams.  She writes full-time from her home office in California where she lives with her husband and two golden retrievers.

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  1. You are not crazy for liking the bad guy. I really loved his villain-like character. also that bad boy rockstar vibe? YAAAASSSS. ASLO ISN'T LIA JUST AN AMAZING PERSON? I love her, and I'm super happy she does whatever it takes, no matter what, and she won't let anyone tell her differently. But I don't really have SHIPPY feels in this, because I know who Lia has always loved. I still adore the boys, though, especially Kaden. I tried not to, but it didn't go over so well. :p

    I'm super happy you loved this one even though you were disappointed with TKOD. SO GLAD.

  2. So everyone keeps talking about this series!!! I guess I really need to give it a try.

  3. So everyone keeps talking about this series!!! I guess I really need to give it a try.

  4. I think I'm going to love Lia. This is my favorite kind of heroine and POV character.