Title: The Heart of Betrayal
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publisher: Macmillan/Fierce Reads
Publication Date: July 7. 2015
Goodreads / Book Depository
"Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape...and even less chance of being together. Desperate to save her life, Lia's erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has a magical gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than either Kaden or Lia foresaw.
Meanwhile, the foundations of Lia's deeply-held beliefs are crumbling beneath her. Nothing is straightforward: there's Rafe, who lied to her, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom she always believed to be barbarians but whom she now realizes are people who have been terribly brutalized by the kingdoms of Dalbreck and Morrighan. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her very sense of self, Lia will have to make powerful choices that affect her country, her people...and her own destiny."
To say that The Heart of Betrayal was one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2015 would be a major understatement. Its predecessor, The Kiss of Deception, was published last year and blew me away with its vivid story and plot twist that no one saw coming. The Heart of Betrayal picks up right where the first book left off, and I'll go ahead and spoil you: this sequel does not disappoint. It may even be better than the first.
I can't go into too much detail without spoiling the first book, so I'll keep things a bit more general in this review, with an emphasis on thematic elements instead. The Heart of Betrayal takes place entirely within Venda, and one of the slow-burn amazing things about this book was how much you learn and come to understand about this kingdom, its people, and their customs. By far my favorite aspect of this installment was seeing Lia grow into even more of a badass, which I almost didn't think was possible. She learns how to play the game with a political shrewdness, and her further character development was done so well. Lia is cold and calculating in this book, and it made me like her so much more. I found Lia to be reminiscent of Kestrel from the Winner's Trilogy, and I mean that in a really good way.
Of course, the prince and the assassin are the other major players in this book, and this may be the first time I didn't really mind a love triangle, because I can't figure out who I would choose. Both Rafe and Kaden are complicated, and although Lia aligns herself with one of them, I think it's pretty obvious that things aren't quite settled. We learn more about Kaden's backstory in this installment, which I really enjoyed. The reader understands how Kaden came to be an assassin, and his relationship with the Komizar. Ultimately, I'm still #TeamLia because as this book demonstrates, she's more than capable without a man slowing her down.
Although it killed me, the ending of this novel was incredible. So much happens in the last few pages that I almost couldn't keep up. Mary Pearson brings such intensity to this book, and there's definitely a moment when you realized just how deeply screwed everything is...I feared for our trio. I'm still afraid for them, after reading the last page.
The only qualms I had with The Heart of Betrayal centered around the world building. We still know pretty much nothing about "the gift," much less how Lia is supposed to use it to save the world. I thought we'd get at least some background or fuller explanation in this book, but 400 pages later and I still know as much as I did after the first book. Also, the history of Morrighan and Venda and their world in general gets turned on its head in this installment, and it was a bit confusing at times. Mainly my biggest gripe with The Heart of Betrayal is that the third book isn't out so I could immediately continue the story.
Rating: 4 stars
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski - Goodreads / Book Depository
Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo - Goodreads / Book Depository