mary e. pearson

The Beauty of Darkness: an explosive finale to a series that proved me wrong

The Beauty of Darkness (The Remnant Chronicles #3) by Mary E. Pearson


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Since this review is for the third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles, please be aware that it will have general spoilers for the first two books.

Beauty of DarknessFor those of you who don’t know, Mary E. Pearson’s The Remnant Chronicles follows the story of Lia, the princess of Morrighan who runs away from her kingdom to avoid an arranged marriage she does not want. She lives in hiding as a tavern maid, and comes across two men: one who is the prince she basically left at the altar, and one an assassin from the ‘barbarian’ kingdom of Venda who has come to assassinate her. Lia does not know which guy is which, and neither does the audience – at least, not for the majority of the first book. The Kiss of Deception was alright; Pearson obviously made a bold decision with shrouding two potential love interests in such darkly veiled mystery, but I felt the book could have had more potential had their identities not been hidden. Because of this, I was hesitant going into The Heart of Betrayal. I shouldn’t have been, because that one was a big step-up from the first book.

And now The Beauty of Darkness. Wow, I had not expected this book to do so many of the things it did. Firstly, I did not expect it to be a 700-page tome full of non-stop, fast-paced, heart-pounding action. I did not expect it to have this level of political intrigue, of shaded, nuanced romance, of such tremendous character development, as well as some kick-ass battle scenes that felt like I was back in a Lord of the Rings movie (for real).

Let’s start with the politics. The Beauty of Darkness begins with a weak, severely injured Lia being carried out of Venda in Rafe’s arms. Lia is fighting for her life, and with a squad of Rahtan sharp on their heels, Rafe, Lia and Rafe’s men need to make haste towards a Dalbretch outpost so they can get to safety. We saw Morrighan in the first book, Venda in the second book, and though we didn’t get to see too much of Dalbreck in this one, we still got a vivid picture of how the kingdom works. Pearson explores the meaning of duty, of honor, of one’s responsibility to their countries and kingdoms so brilliantly. These kingdoms are fractured and in desperate need for some good leadership; our characters are thrust fully into these positions, and they need to figure out where their loyalties lie. Rafe and Lia are wildly in love, but Rafe’s kingdom is still reeling from Morrighan’s ‘slight,’ considering Lia left the Dalbretch prince on the altar. Kaden and Lia are friends, but he is from Venda, a kingdom from whence an army rides to destroy Morrighan. The complicated web of politics and friendship makes this a deeply nuanced, deeply complex novel.

Speaking of the characters, I distinctly remember not caring about any of the protagonists in the first book. As you may know by now, characterization is of the utmost importance to me; if I’m not invested in the characters, chances are that I’m not invested in the book. But they grew on me in the second book- I was still cool towards Kaden, but Rafe had become a dearly beloved, and I was beginning to appreciate Lia for who she was. But Pearson kicked  characterization up several notches in her finale; the sheer size of the book coupled with the amount of hardships they are put through resulted in a very flawed, yet very real cast of people. Their development is so clear and tangible that you can pinpoint what parts of them have changed, what parts have remained the same, and what parts they still need to work on. I have become so sick of characters whose flaws are also endearing, and Mary stays far, far away from that trope. These characters’ flaws are not endearing- but they are understandable, and they learn from their mistakes.

Rafe, especially, is a deeply flawed person. Burdened with duty and his carnal desire to protect the people he loves, he has the tendency to turn into a full-on douchebag. And he does a few times in this book, but simply the way his character is explored and navigated gave me a new appreciation for his strength. It gave me insight into his character that I never had before. Kaden, too, grew on me in this book. I never wanted Lia and Kaden to get together, simply because I didn’t think Lia had any feelings for him. We all know Kaden loves her, but again- just the way his love for her is explored is so brilliantly done that I couldn’t find it in me to dislike him. Lia grew from a ‘meh’ protagonist to perhaps one that I will remember for years to come.

The romance was handled wonderfully, despite it being extremely complicated and topsy-turvy. Lia and Rafe both have duties to their kingdoms- duties that aren’t so easily ignored. They are no longer farmer and tavern maid; they cannot abandon their lives to stay with each other because their kingdoms are desperately in need. They make some huge mistakes with regards to each other. Their romance is not an easy one, and they genuinely need to walk through fire to be with each other. And there are so many times in this novel that my heart was pounding in my chest because I was sure my ship was going to sink. Pearson keeps you on your toes, and she tells her readers that this series was never about Lia choosing between Rafe and Kaden. This series was always about Rafe and Lia, and if they could work it out despite all the obstacles thrown their way. And until the very end, you don’t know what their fate will be. You simply don’t. This ‘trope’ of commitment and devotion is so rare in YA, and it was such a refreshing reprieve from the “who will she choose” thing.

“Love didn’t end all at once, no matter how much you needed it to or how inconvenient it was. You couldn’t command love to stop any more than a marriage document could order it to appear. Maybe love had to bleed away a drop at a time until your heart was numb and cold and mostly dead.”

Of course, no book is perfect. It had its flaws. But perhaps the biggest problem I had was that the magic-part of the world-building didn’t interest me at all, and I found myself losing track whenever Lia’s “gift” was mentioned. I was so invested in the politics and the characters without the involvement of magic that I simply didn’t see the need for it. I had also hoped that I’d gotten to see more of Dalbreck; the Dalbretch characters introduced were so well fleshed-out and lovely that they drew me to the kingdom, and I simply didn’t see much of it. But apart from those minor problems, this book was a damn-near perfect conclusion to a series I didn’t have high hopes for at all. Well, Pearson proved me wrong, and up she goes near the top of my Auto-Buy list.

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Top Ten Tuesday | New-to-Me Authors of 2015

top ten tuesday

Hello everyone! It’s that time of the week again! Top Ten Tuesday is a book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Basically, you get a different bookish topic every Tuesday, and you comprise a list of ten (or however many you’re able to list) relating to said topic.

Today’s topic is ‘Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2015.’ I read tons of great books and great authors this year, so this is a great opportunity to tell you about some of the authors I read!

These aren’t in any specific order. I was strongly tempted to put Maggie Stiefvater and Patrick Ness in this list since I’d only read one book by each in 2014, and even that one in late December. But I managed to restrain myself! xD

Cinda Williams Chima

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Cinda Williams Chima is a brilliant author, and even though I’m uber glad I have read her books, I wish I had read them sooner. She takes young adult fantasy to a whole new level. Her world-building, her characters, her writing- it’s all a pleasure to read. I have only read three books by her, and I am reading the fourth, but she has become one of my auto-buy authors, and I’m sure that I’ll be reading her books for a long time.

Sarah J. Maas

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Now, I have some problems with the decisions Maas makes in her books, and I’m not the biggest fan of how she changes the course of her story halfway through the series, but I cannot deny that she’s a brilliant author. Her first two books in the Throne of Glass series are triumphs, especially the second one. She created one of my favorite male characters of all-time (cough Chaol cough). A Court of Thorns & Roses was also brilliant and made its way into my top books of 2015. So even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, I appreciate Maas for what I did love.

Cassandra Clare

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You might be surprised but I read all of Cassandra Clare’s currently-out books this year. Personally, I didn’t think I was going to like her books when I went into them, but they’re so addicting! Her writing flows with ease, her characters are fun, her stories are fast-paced. While the Infernal Devices means more to me than her the Mortal Instruments series, I still enjoyed the latter. I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for me!

Laini Taylor

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I love Laini Taylor’s writing. Her writing is so whimsical and interesting. She paints vivid paintings with her words but she never overdoes it. I take a lot of inspiration from her writing. I read the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series this year, and I grew to love her characters, her story and the way she weaves her magical, beautiful words. Another auto-buy author for me!

Renèe Ahdieh

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Renèe released her debut, the Wrath and the Dawn earlier this year, and as soon as I turned the first page, I knew I would love that book. And I did. Ahdieh is another author who has such tremendous command over her language. Her world-building, her characters, her story – everything is so well-done. So much so that I almost couldn’t believe I was reading an author’s debut! I can’t wait for what else Ahdieh puts out.

Mary E. Pearson

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I’ve only read two books by Pearson even though she has more out, but I really enjoyed everything I’ve read by her. I think she’s very smart when it comes to making decisions about her series and her characters. She doesn’t let her fans guide her writing which is something a lot of authors tend to do, at least in my opinion. Her writing is simple and humble, but it’s effective. I wouldn’t say she’s an auto-buy author yet, but she’s definitely someone I’ll have my eye on.

Jenny Han

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Slight aside: isn’t she the cutest? xD Again, I’ve only read two books by Jenny Han. The first one was one I really, really enjoyed and I don’t usually love contemporaries all that much. I wasn’t stoked on some of the decisions she made in her second book, but I still love her writing and characters enough to give the rest of her books a chance!

V.E. Schwab

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I’ve only read one book by Schwab even though she has more out, but the one that I read was brilliant. Her characters in Vicious were interesting and on-point, and I loved how she centered an entire novel around anti-heroes. I’m interested in her other novels; I just haven’t gotten around to reading them quite yet.

Gillian Flynn

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Again, I’ve only read Gone Girl but it was absolutely magnificent! Her twisted characters and their crazy relationships, the darkness of her heroines, her writing and the density and intelligence of it! I want to read her other books as soon as possible!

Andrew Smith

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The first guy! I didn’t do this on purpose. I just love the writerly ladies! Now, Andrew Smith is a complicated one for me. I think he’s a brilliant, brilliant author. His books are intelligent, thought-provoking and completely realistic. I loved Winger, but I wasn’t a big fan of the second book I read by him, 100 Sideways Miles. I think his books are a little too weird for me, but I’ll still give his future books a go just because he’s such a skilled, talented writer.

Book Review | The Heart of Betrayal (Remnant Chronicles #2) by Mary E. Pearson

hobTitle: The Heart of Betrayal (Remnant Chronicles #2)

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.

Final Rating:

4 purple

Check out this book’s Goodreads page! 

Check out my review for the first book in the series – the Kiss of Deception

Aimal's Review purple

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!

Review | The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson

kodTitle: The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy > Romance
Synopsis: A princess must find her place in a reborn world. She flees on her wedding day. She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection. She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father. She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan. The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance. Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
Would I recommend? For fans of romance and light mystery.
Check out this book’s Goodreads page!
Interested? Buy yourself a copy now on the Book Depository and get free worldwide shipping!

Aimal’s Review:

I read this book for a read-along on Goodreads, and that’s all well and good because I had been wanting to read this for the longest time. This entire you-don’t-know-who’s-who thing surrounding the book had me intrigued. I had heard nothing but fantastic things about it, and so it’s safe to say that I was excited going into it.

For the most part, I liked it. I thought the pacing was very good. I liked the plot. I liked how it started out, and I liked where it went from there too. I enjoyed most of the characters, although Lia got on my nerves sometimes. I enjoyed the characters of both the assassin and the prince, and I liked that we get to see a lot of the world even in the first book.

Plot:

The idea of not knowing who the assassin is, or who the prince is was really fascinating. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and I was totally engrossed in the details surrounding the two main leads because I’m an ambitious person, and I like to know things. So, I was constantly trying to guess who was who. (I was successful, but that’s not the point lulz.)

However, I feel that there’s a subtle love triangle in this book, and it’s going to get much stronger as the series progresses. I don’t like love triangles, and I don’t think it’s necessary for there to be one in this series.

Characters:

I’m not too into Lia’s character. Sometimes, I think she’s overreacting. She thinks too much, and she really annoyed me at times.

I enjoyed that there a lot of characters that get a lot of time in this novel. Because I didn’t like the main character too much, the focus on the assassin, the prince and Lia’s best friend was something that really got me through the book.

I’m excited to see how the characters progress in the next book. I feel like there’s more room for character development now that we know who’s who. Even though trying to figure out who was who was a lot of fun, and it was a refreshing twist to the normal mystery in YA, it did come at an expense: character development. But I liked this book enough to carry on with the series, and I liked Mary Pearson’s writing enough to be confident that the character development will be much stronger in the next one.

Writing Style:

Mary E. Pearson is tremendously imaginative. I know that practically no idea is entirely original anymore- everything has been done by now, one way or another, and even though this storyline is not totally outside of the box, the way Pearson carries it out was a delight to see. Her world-building skills are fantastic. The way she mapped out an entire world and incorporated the different lands and different peoples residing (or not) in these lands was a lot of fun to read.

Her writing is pretty easy to read, but because she spends a good amount of time describing the world, it can get a little tedious if you’re not into that kind of thing. But overall, I liked her writing quite a bit, and I’ll definitely pick up anything else she puts out!

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