I loved Mary E. Pearson’s The Kiss of Deception for a lot of reasons: It’s epic fantasy (spies and assassins and princesses and nomads and barmaids, long-lost civilizations, political maneuvering, and OF COURSE, The Chosen One) with strong worldbuilding, it has lovely character development and growth, and it portrays strong, complex friendships between female characters AND STILL has plenty of time for romance. Due to my enormous love for Kiss of Deception—and to the MONSTER of a cliffhanger it ended on—I’ve been waiting and waiting for The Heart of Betrayal. And now, finally it’s here.
It’s structurally similar to the first book, in that the main characters (and occasional others) alternate narration. As in the first book, the major characters all do a good amount of lying—sometimes with words, sometimes with actions, sometimes by omission—and while they’re USUALLY honest with the reader and with themselves, there are still lots of surprises. Readers who’ve tired of love triangles will be happy to find that the love triangle isn’t really a love triangle: while circumstances force her to act otherwise, Lia has no doubts as to which of her suitors she’s in love with, though she does have affection for the other.
The worldbuilding continues to shine, getting deeper and more complex and more satisfying as the story goes on. The first book was more concerned with economic class, and while that is certainly dealt with here, too, this one takes a closer look at information and history and perspective. More specifically, it shows what a crucial difference that the intent of the person framing the narrative can make—that information is power, and that trusting any source without question can be dangerous.
As Lia delves further and further into her world’s history—and as she begins to compare the stories she was taught to the stories as actually chronicled in primary documents—she begins to see just how different those narratives are, and to realize the degree to which information she’s always taken for granted as objective has been warped and twisted by the politics of her day. Points to Pearson for the way she handled this—while the thread CLEARLY has parallels to our own world and our own time, I was so invested in Lia’s story that said parallels didn’t even OCCUR to me until hours after I’d finished the book.
Due to the arc of the story, The Heart of Betrayal doesn’t feature the same strong focus on female friendship—there is a new female character whom I’m hoping to see more of in the third installment, though—but it does deal very much with women and power and the strength it takes to bide your time, to be patient in waiting for the right moment, to use cunning to defeat brawn. Lia has grown so, so much since we first met her, and I rather suspect that when—if she ultimately survives the series, which certainly isn’t a given in books with alternating narration—it comes time for her to take the fight back home, that she’ll have the will and the support of multiple countries behind her.
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.