This book takes place right after the events of Red Queen, so slight spoilers: Mare Barrow, an electric female Michael Vey with Clyde Barrow's last name, has been betrayed by her fiancé and has put up the message that anyone can betray anyone. Maven, that fiancé, calls her, a Red (a human being with Red blood rather than Silver blood, which is the higher and more supernatural race) that has Silver abilities a mistake, a fraud, a magic trick. Plus his mother Queen Elara has read her mind and knows the list Cal (Tiberias Calore, Maven's older and betrayed brother who's now against his will with Mare)'s uncle Julian showed to Mare, a list of people just like her who have abilities both out of the general ability of a Silver and yes, with mixed blood. In order to cover Mare up, and Mare knows it, Maven will start executing all these innocent people, so in order to stop him and dethrone the rigged throne, she must get to and recruit these witches and wizards before Maven and build a rebellion army. But that's not the only problem arising. Meanwhile, Norta is still at war against other countries which always have people go to the Choke; the battlefield to protect and invade when they turn eighteen, if they can't find work which no Red can. Now that age has gone down to 15 and Maven has thrown the blame onto her. Life is in ruins and Mare is racing against time at every corner.
Oh my goodness, right off the bat, the book understands how weird it is with Cal, a prince who has sentenced so many Reds now fighting with Reds, since he has nowhere else to go but he's not happy about it and he infact feels like a prisoner. It dwells on this just long enough before the book brings up one of the biggest of the many cliffhangers from the last book and doesn't lag around but has an emphasis on Mare's brother Shade's powers, a kidnapping, and an attack scene about as intense as a book can get! And it was just the beginning. Glass Sword has more action than about 95% of books out there of any genre. There are books like The Fury that can have a lot of action but not much story development or actual excitement, but thank goodness this is not one of those.
Now, there were a few times where I was worried the betrayal element of the book would go a little too far. One of the most notable betrayal books I've read, apart from the first book, was Storm by D.J. MacHale, where it had that element and the hero Tucker had refrained from saying anything for fear of his "friends" reporting it, but after the events of the first book, the idea laid on them felt a little stupid and desperate. Thankfully, Glass Sword has a bigger advantage, because we witnessed a huge betrayal in the first book so the idea isn't as farfetched. Also, the new characters, each with powers that make their names and characters picturesque and memorable, are brand new and not all of them with Red blood. Finally, the book explores the idea of doing the right thing versus surviving even if that means having to take an innocent life, which also shows it can be tempting, no matter who holds the cards. And it's thankfully not the exact main idea of this book. But it's when this betrayal goes to Mare and she leaves someone to escape themselves, trusting him to escape with his powers eventually but feeling the guilt soon after, is when the book starts to seriously sing. Even though I half wish the leave part went a little differently, it still has an explosive action scene nearly right after and Mare also starts to feel like a boss, and not a powerful one but a demanding one, who now that she has the power has to make decisions for everyone and enforce them at the same time. There is another mini fake betrayal, but by the end of this book, I forgave all of these events when I saw where they were going.
I haven't read Breaking Dawn but I think that most of that book involved recruiting vampires and werewolves for the final fight that according to research never went down. Glass Sword does spend some time in that way recruiting special Reds, but because Maven is looking for them too, I felt the urge, the race, the tension of traps, and was alongside Mare and her friends for the big walk. I imagined myself hiking with them and enjoying every step. It also took me off guard when one of these Reds attacks a character we root for and I was blown away how I had read similar situations in other YA books with characters I knew more about but this one still felt brand new and heart-stoppingly worrying. The book doesn't spend the whole time recruiting people either and gives us pages where we skip over some of the meeting of characters, and I actually really wish the book had two-hundred or even three-hundred extra pages to do even more adventure. Oh well, even without them, the adventure is still breathtakingly alive. One of the many other things that keep this book moving is its sense of revenge most wanted by Cal; the betrayal stung him and his swelling beautifully shows to us so we really want to see how his anger goes down, as well as the anger of everybody, to Mare, to Cal, to the Silvers who disagree with the heroic propaganda of the Reds.
There is a light romance issue between Kilorn and Cal which Mare can't do much about, and at this point I'm really not sure who she'll say yes to or if she'll say yes to anyone at all, but I care massively. And when I was worried Mare was starting to dissolve into another Kelsey Hayes from Tiger's Curse, the book understood this and explained her guilt, how stoic she had to be, how she tries to be free but has to enforce the rules and she feels terrible about it. This is how a real teenager would react and feel if being put in charge of something. She reminded me of me and my childhood days trying to direct films; I try to do the right thing but there are times where I turn into an asshole when things don't go my way. Or my cast turns to assholes, I guess you'd have to take us to court to choose sides. The ending brought out tears in the characters that never felt forced because of a tragedy that made me stop and almost put the book down to dwell on it for a while, which I would've done if I wasn't desperate to know what's next. And the last two pages brought this up to the four star mark. Minor spoilers at the last paragraph. * I wouldn't have cared as much about this though if it wasn't so entertaining, so explosive, so never-endingly terrifically long, so world-expanding without feeling too patronizingly analyzing, so unforgettable.
King's Cage comes out next February, or January if we're lucky, and after that I'll have to wait another year for the last book, and thankfully I have the Grisha trilogy, the next Michael Vey, the next Alexander Gordon Smith thriller and a few others to distract me while I wait, but this book will be hard to soar over.
* Mare does an action, two actions actually but the last one is more head-on so a bit more memorable, that feels so heroic, so sacrificing, her entire attitude flips on itself, leaving not only one of the biggest cliffhangers in literary history but allowing us to actually feel grateful to the monster we and she thought Mare was turning into so we could analyze what we thought of her throughout the book.