Review: The Heart of Betrayal


The Heart of Betrayal

By: Mary E. Pearson

Pages: 470

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.

My Review:

“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!

Continue reading Review: The Heart of Betrayal


Review: Sekret


By: Lindsay Smith

Pages: 341

Genre: YA Historical Fiction, YA Paranormal

Personal Age Rating: 15+

Rating: 4.75/5 stars


Yulia knows she must hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia. But if she sometimes manipulates the black market traders by reading their thoughts when she touches their skin, so what? Anything to help her survive.

Russia’s powerful spy agency, the KGB, is recruiting young people with mind-reading capabilities for their psychic espionage program. Their mission: protect the Soviet space program from American CIA spies. Why shouldn’t the KGB use any means necessary to make the young psychic cooperate? Anything to beat the American capitalist scum to the moon.

Yulia is a survivor. She won’t be controlled by the KGB, who want to harness her abilities for the State with no regard for her own hopes and dreams. She won’t let handsome Sergei plan her life as a member of elite Soviet society, or allow brooding Valentin to consume her with his dangerous mind and even more dangerous ideas. And she certainly won’t become the next victim of the powerful American spy who can scrub a brain raw—and seems to be targeting Yulia.

My Review:

“You’ll be here longer than you like, you know. But not so long that you’ll lose yourself. I’m confident you’ll find your way.”

A psychic espionage novel set in Cold War era Russia? Consider me intrigued. Sekret perfectly blends history with paranormal elements to create a fictitious story that feels as if it could have actually happened in the Soviet Union in 1963.

It has been a while since the first book in a debut series has gotten me this excited. I am enamored by Lindsey Smith’s storytelling and the extent of research that was invested into making this book such a vivid representation of Communist Russia. The descriptions in this book allow for a perfect mental picture of the events as they play out. Sekret is a fresh breath of air in the Young Adult genre… it blends several YA tropes with innovative new ideas in order to create a book that is crisp and unique.

Yulia is recruited by the KGB when it is discovered that she can read the minds of the people she touches. The KGB is using teenage spies, second generation psychics, to protect the Soviet space program from American spies. Yulia, the daughter of a geneticist and biologist, is a smart, determined protagonist who uses her abilities and common sense to reason and solve problems. Yulia’s first priority is to protect her family, which is a concept that plays a vital role in this novel, but then spends the rest of the novel attempting to escape the KGB. Naturally, action and deception ensue.

Sekret is crafted like a puzzle; all the pieces are given to you, jumbled up in the beginning, but by the end of the book the picture is perfectly clear. Because of this, the first 100 pages or so can be confusing because of the massive amount of information given and characters introduced in a small time frame. Don’t let this turn you away: everything starts to make sense as the novel progresses. Characters become unique and differentiable, questions are answered, and the plot becomes clear. I appreciate that this book is written with an intelligent audience in mind. Smith assumes her readers have a common knowledge about Communist Russia, and that if they don’t know something, they will look it up (what a concept). Smith also does not feel the need to reiterate plot points and is able to drop subtle foreshadowing hints without giving the twists away, which is something that many YA authors have failed to master. I guessed one of the plot twists (yay!) but it was because I actually used my brain to figure it out, not because it was spelled out in the text.

Disclaimer: There is a love triangle, but it is not overbearing. It almost doesn’t even feel like a love triangle because it is obvious who Yulia wants to be with and there is evident chemistry between her that specific character. The romance is really sweet and extremely interesting with the psychic dynamic, but definitely takes second stage to the plot. I really like Yulia’s love interest and the complexity of his character. In fact, all the characters are wonderful and complex and add to the story in some way, even if it doesn’t seem like they will from the beginning.

Overall, Sekret is a fantastically written novel that is engrossing, thrilling, and deceptive. This book will require you to think, but if you are willing to put in the effort, I believe you will find it extremely enjoyable! I highly recommend Sekret and am looking forward to reading Skandal as soon as I can get my hands on a copy!