The Heart of Betrayal
By: Mary E. Pearson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Personal Age Rating: 14+
Rating: 4.75/5 stars
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.
“The rules of reason build towers that reach past the treetops. The rules of trust build towers that reach past the stars.”
The Heart of Betrayal is the exciting sequel to The Kiss of Deception, the first book in a young adult fantasy series that took the book community by storm last year. I read The Kiss of Deception this past summer and immensely enjoyed it, but did not pick up the sequel until now, and I am so glad I finally did.
This book elevates the intensity of the series to an entirely new level. The stakes are set incredibly high now that Lia and Rafe have been taken captive by the Vendans, and Lia must make sacrifices she never imagined possible. Because of this, The Heart of Betrayal takes on a tangible intensity that its predecessor lacked. This book is better than the first in almost every aspect: Extensive world-building, a more intriguing and all-encompassing plot, difficult choices that result in character development, and of course, unforeseen and bitter betrayal. Although the first book was by no means “lighthearted”, it certainly would be considered so compared to The Heart of Betrayal.
What I loved about this sequel was that it addressed all the things I wished for in my review for The Kiss of Deception. Let’s take a look back at my review this past July:
My only complaint about this book would be that the the plot is a bit weighted down by the love triangle. I have no problem with love triangles; I just feel that this story has so much potential to be solely focused on the love triangle. I am hoping that the next book allows a bit more world-building and character development, because the characters and world are already so rich and interesting.
A less prominent romance (focus on the plot), more character development, and fleshing out the wonderful fantasy world Ms. Pearson had created? This book gave all these things and more. I will discuss the romance in the spoilery section, but for now I will say that the romance took the backseat to the plot this time around, even becoming relevant and necessary to drive the plot itself. We were able to see Lia develop as a character, but yet there is still room for development in the last book. She is perceptive, intelligent, and strong-willed, but yet still compassionate and loving. We were able to learn Kaden’s backstory, which definitely makes you understand his behavior and even causes you sympathize with him. The only character we see little development from is Rafe, but I am expecting that in the next book. He got more time in the spotlight in The Kiss of Deception, anyway. And then we get to explore the supposedly savage kingdom of Venda, which is incredibly interesting and drenched with culture and history.
The last thing I will say in the “non-spoilery” section of this review that the history of the kingdoms weaves together in an interesting way throughout this novel. Lia comes to several realizations and it is fun to piece together the information as she does.
My only complaint about this book is that it had a tendency to be a bit slow, unlike its predecessor. I think the book could have included a lot more action or been much shorter, but it was still a fantastic book either way.
Overall, I highly recommend this series, it just continues to get better and better! Please do not read below unless you want to be spoiled or have already read The Heart of Betrayal!
First off, Lia killing the Komizar.. did you see it coming? I knew Lia would kill the Komizar from the second it was established that whoever killed the Komizar became the next one. The ancient writings made it pretty clear that Lia would slay “the dragon” and I couldn’t see that conflict resolving any other way.
The next thing I want to discuss is Lia & Rafe vs. Lia & Kaden. This is one of the very few love triangles that I think is done extremely well. After reading the first book, I was totally 100% team Rafe, but after this book, I’m not so sure. Learning about Kaden’s backstory in this book gives his character some validity and depth that it had previously lacked. Not only did we get backstory, but we also see possible character development. Lia makes Kaden question his hunger for vengeance and justice and I would assume, possibly a desire to reverse his ways. In addition, this book upped the intensity about a billion, and now the priorities of all the characters are much different than in the first book. With Lia as the Komizar, anything could happen. I was upset she fled (yet again) but I do believe she will play the crucial role in reuniting the kingdoms. I want to see Lia finally own her position of power and take charge. That’s how I see this all ending.
Anyway, back to the whole Lia, Rafe, and Kaden thing… I think I would like to see Lia end up with Kaden if his character undergoes the aforementioned character development and chooses love over vengeance, and here’s why:
Rafe is the prince that Lia is destined to marry. She fled her kingdom in order to avoid this arranged marriage. Of course, she never knew she would end up actually falling in love with him, but Lia’s journey took her so much further than she ever bargained for. She has come way too far to marry the prince whom she was destined to in the first place… that makes this whole journey seem like it’s for nothing. I think it’s obvious by the prophecies and ancient writings that Lia’s plan is greater. In addition, Rafe and Kaden both want a happy ending with Lia. The difference is that Rafe wants Lia and him to run away to find their happy ending. Here’s the problem with that… They both are technically now the leaders of different kingdoms. Rafe can take her back to Dalbreck, but Lia has unsettled business in both Venda AND Morrighan. Who else has unsettled business in both those kingdoms? Ehm. Also, Kaden isn’t encouraging Lia to run away from her problems. He understands that she needs to accept her fate better than anyone. He too has the premonition “gift” (which is still really vague and I want to know more about). Also, I am curious about what Kaden saw with his gift about Lia and himself in Venda with him holding a child. Is that real or just his own wistful thinking?
I really would like to see the following things happen in The Beauty of Darkness:
- Lia’s name cleared in Morrighan, and I would love if Pauline and Gwyneth played a role in doing that. I want Lia to repair her friendship with Pauline, since now Pauline knows that Lia deceived her.
- Lia to finally take ownership and to stop running from her problems. If she had stayed in Morrighan in the first place, she could have married Rafe and been happy, but she chose to run and with that comes responsibility. She needs to return to Venda as their leader and ensure the army doesn’t mass murder the other kingdoms.
- Lia needs to unite the kingdoms. The Song of Venda says: “And though the wait may be long, The promise is great, For the one named Jezelia, Whose life will be sacrificed, For the hope of saving yours.” To what extent this sacrifice will be, I do not know, but its obvious that this is Lia’s purpose, and all that has happened to her has not been an accident.
- Resolution to the love triangle. Particularly in the manner I previously discussed.
Thanks for reading!! Just a reminder that you can find me on Instagram (@booksbybritt) and I am a lot more active on there that I am on here. How do you see it all going down in The Beauty of Darkness? Are you Team Rafe or Team Kaden? Did you do a 180 and change your mind like me?