Release Date: July 7, 2015
Published by: Henry Holt
Intrigue abounds in this hotly anticipated sequel to The Kiss of Deception!
Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save her life, Lia's 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 barbarians. Now that she lives amongst 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.
After finishing The Heart of Betrayal, my first thought was: this is more epic than The Kiss of Deception. The Kiss of Deception is a little more epic high fantasy, since Lia and co. travel from Morrighan to Venda and places in between - and to me, an epic high fantasy involves countries on a larger scale; it's not really an appropriate term for books dealing with the development of one country's culture, political situation, etc. But, The Heart of Betrayal, despite taking place mostly in Venda, is much more epic in stakes and the scope of the plot. If you liked the deception, intrigue, and political games of The Kiss of Deception -- and the implications of the second half of that book -- then you will probably like the high stakes action of The Heart of Betrayal. Although I liked the originality of the first half of The Kiss of Deception, since most high fantasies do not take that path, I wanted more of the second half; and so was very pleased with The Heart of Betrayal. To ensure that we understand the grand scale of political consequences, Mary Pearson has added in another point of view (which I don't remember from TKoD, but I might be wrong), and this helps add to the tangle of political intrigue and subterfuge.
For me, however, my favorite part of these books has been Lia herself. In the first book, I admired her rebellion against the arranged marriage; I admired her determination to try for a normal life despite her high ranking and the place others would have for her in their schemes. I admired her spirit and strength even in the less pleasant times to come. This book raises my admiration of Lia. In an enemy country where her death is never far from becoming a reality, she manages to not only survive but to also make herself a player in the political games that everyone else is playing. There's a really nice scene when Lia specifically demands for others to recognize that she, too, is at the table and that they are making a grave mistake in not recognizing her abilities. Yes, I loved Lia and seeing her adapt to the circumstances. She's a bad ass heroine, and it's an absolute treat to watch her grieve and grow.
For those of you who were worried about the love triangle in The Kiss of Deception, this is why I didn't consider that a love triangle. Lia makes decisions and sticks with them. That, of course, doesn't mean there aren't games and strategies to play. And times when the deception might fool you, and the other characters, as well. But, if you're well and truly bothered by love triangles, don't worry. Though both the assassin and the prince have points of view in The Heart of Betrayal, the focus is less on the romantic elements and more on their respective duties to country, family, and friends. Romance -- and love -- has been established. Now they are to be tested; and thus the plot rises in the stakes, and the individual story threads have begun to weave together into this truly epic tale.
I would recommend this series to fans of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, the Grisha trilogy, and Finnikin of the Rock. All three have political intrigue twined with more religious elements - religious backgrounds and stories influencing the world, each culture's perception of events, and the plot itself -- and in The Heart of Betrayal that becomes especially apparent with Vendan culture and Lia's gift. They also have quest-like elements, and for the Grisha trilogy, the Komizar reminds me a little of the Darkling and how he and Alina interacted. I might also recommend this to Megan Whalen Turner fans since Queen's Thief has similar religious/political intrigue combinations. But yes and no: Turner seemed to focus more on the individual characters (Gen, Attolia, Eddis, Sophos) than their countries, whereas the Heart of Betrayal goes really in depth for the Vendan culture and general dynamics between Venda, Morrighan, and Dalbreck. Still, that's what makes me think (about this book): good epic high fantasy.
Like this review and the sound of The Heart of Betrayal? Well, I'm offering you the chance to win my ARC and get to read and review this book before its release as well :). INT, ends 05/12/15.