Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Synopsis: Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her 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 savages. Now that she lives among 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.
Check out this book’s Goodreads page!
Check out my review for the first book in the series – the Kiss of Deception
Please be advised that this review may contain general spoilers for those who have not read the first book. If you haven’t read the first book, you can find my review for it in the post header.
The Heart of Betrayal was a solid sequel. I expected it to suffer from the Sequel Syndrome, but I was wrong in assuming that it would. I enjoyed the first book; I thought it was entertaining and different, but this one was better. Pearson has stepped up her game. The world-building was a lot denser. Since the mystery aspect was taken away and we knew who was who, the author could explore characterization, plot and story-arcs a lot more freely than she could in the first book. Those who enjoyed the mystery more than the actual story in the last book may not love the sequel, but those people who liked the mystery but were more invested in the story than the mystery itself will definitely love this sequel.
Our characters are in a much different position than they were in Kiss of Deception. A lot has changed. Lia is no longer leading a life of secrecy away from the royal splendor of her life; she is a prisoner in a land she’s come to think of as enemy territory, among people she has learned to think of as barbaric and uncivilized. Rafe is very much in love with Lia, and he has followed her into this land where nobody knows his true identity except for Lia. He’s treading dangerous ground when it comes to politics and love, both. He lied to Lia, and he has to face the consequences. Kaden has come back to the Komizar, the leader of Venda who had instructed him to slit Lia’s throat. He must face the consequences of failing to do the task he was sent to do, while also keeping Lia safe from the people who approach her with barely veiled hostility.
I think Pearson excels when she’s writing about characters in an unfamiliar, vicious, slightly hostile setting. I really enjoyed some of the decisions she made in the book. I thought her expansion of the world was well-done. Her descriptions of Venda were vivid, though I had hoped that we got to interact a little more with the people and culture of Venda. Even though I thought the world-building was expanded in this, I still think there’s a lot more room for exploration. Pearson could have taken full advantage of the number of pages she had to fully explore the world, but I was still sufficiently satisfied with what was already there on those pages.
The plot was interesting, a lot more so than it was in the first book. I think the mystery aspect took a lot away from the plot in the first book, and the main focus remained on the romance. That was reversed. Romance exists, yes, but it was for the most part pushed to the back to make way for the storyline. The book was well-paced. There were very few boring parts. I did find myself getting a little lost here and there when the folklore and supernatural stuff was being integrated, but that was a rare occurrence.
The strongest point in this book was the character development. I remember not particularly liking Lia in the first book, but that changed in this one. I’m still not her biggest fan, but I definitely grew to appreciate some of her strong points. Lia is fiercely loyal, which was something I didn’t see in the first book. She has fire, and she’ll do anything to protect the ones that she cares about. Rafe is a sweetheart, but he also has a fire inside him that refuses to go out. I liked Lia and Rafe’s romance in the first book, but in this one, I was totally invested. I know there’s a shipping-war going on in this book too, but I genuinely appreciated that even though the possibility of a love-triangle was very much there, Pearson didn’t jump on the bandwagon just for the sake of it. I don’t want there to be a triangle- I don’t think it’s necessary for the story, and right now, I’m thinking that there won’t be one, which makes me VERY happy.
Speaking of love triangles, let’s talk about Kaden. I really enjoy his character. I do think he comes off a little strong sometimes, particularly when it comes to Lia. I was a little uncomfortable with their ‘physical’ interactions (I’m not going to say more), and this discomfort arose mainly due to his role in said interactions. But other than that, I think he’s a character with tremendous potential. I don’t know where his storyline is going at the moment. I hope Pearson ties it together without throwing him and Lia into an unnecessary relationship, but we’ll see how that goes…
The Komizar was an intriguing character. I really loved seeing his personality in this, and I enjoyed how nuanced he was. Sometimes, I’d get the feeling that he’s a tough leader with a good enough heart, and then other times I’d just be appalled by his cruelty. That can also be seen as a downfall of the character, since I’m still not sure what ground the Komizar walks on… what was going on in his mind?
And finally, I’ll talk about the ending. There’s a cliffhanger. Boy, there’s a cliffhanger and it’s a brutal one at that. Everything is hanging by a thread, and you know what? It’s a GOOD cliffhanger. It’s done very well. It’s not heavy-handed, it’s not overly dramatic, and I have no idea what’s going to happen next, because it can go either way right now. I was initially going to give this book 3.5 stars, but because the ending was so brilliantly done, I had to bump it up to a 4.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this sequel to anybody who enjoyed the first book. Even if you thought the first book was average, I’d still recommend picking the sequel up. It’s well worth a shot!