I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, by the time I got around to reading it, I had bought my own copy (and that’s what I read) so who knows if this counts as an ARC review or not. My opinions weren’t at all influenced by having the eARC.
Genre: Fantasy (Dystopia) Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4/5 stars Series: Yes - companion book to the Red Queen series
An unseated King searches for meaning in a world altered by war.
Enemy brothers clash one last time.
A doomed Queen pens words of hope for her son.
In the chaos of an unknown land trapped between warring nations, survival reigns supreme.
A hero whose spark started a revolution discovers where she belongs in peace.
This short story collection includes the previously published QUEEN SONG and STEEL SCARS (found in CRUEL CROWN), as well as three new novellas (WORLD BEHIND, IRON HEART and FIRE LIGHT). There’s also maps, flags, bonus scenes and journal entries.
Synopsis adapted from book jacket. Add to your Goodreads shelves here.
Because this is a bind-up, I’ve split my review into thoughts on each novella/bonus content.
I had already read this – and have the CRUEL CROWN bind up. It seems silly to include them when they’re already published instead of including more new content. It’s simply repackaging the existing material.
As it is, I love this novella. It gives a glimpse of the court before Elara was queen – and more background on Julian and Sara. Corianne’s fears and the juxtaposition this creates with her seemingly perfect life makes this a really heartbreaking story.
If you found yourself wishing you knew more about the Scarlet Guard, then this is a short story for you. Farley starts the mission that will bring her into contact with Mare and Shade. Even with a little more of the organisation revealed, the Scarlet Guard remains shrouded in mystery, but the fog rolls back just enough to provide tantalising glimpses of its scope.
There were no chapter breaks in this story. I felt like I was just having to read on, without having anywhere to pause and collect myself. By the end, I was flagging a little, struggling to keep up with the all-in-one-go reading style. The closest it came to any sort of ‘pause point’ were the encoded messages. The use of code names meant I found it a little tricky to work out who was talking to who.
With an entirely new cast of characters, this short story follows a smuggler in the disputed lands. It was interesting to see this new part of the world, the illegal trade carved out by the Reds along the river. It’s a world that might be fun to see more of, smugglers and the underworld. The references to the main story were fun, how jumbled news was.
Lyrisa expands on the ideas Evangeline has brought throughout the latter books in the series, about the cages Silvers can find themselves in due to marriages. Ashe is a swaggering captain, and the tension between them (not romantic, but actually life-or-death tension) was great. However, as it was all new, I had a bit of trouble connecting to the characters in such a short space of time (8 chapters I think).
For some reason, I wasn’t expecting this story – Evangeline post-WAR STORM – and it was a lovely surprise. It’s the story with the clearest character growth across it, and gets the same ‘Yes, Evangeline!” feels as her decision at the end of WAR STORM.
This is the story I wanted to read the most – the final large story in the book, which kept me reading until I hit it. What happens to Mare and Cal after WAR STORM?
It was well worth the wait – my favourite part by far.
I loved how the consequences of the series – the betrayals, heartbreaks and deaths – are so real. There is no shying away from the mess between them, and the scars they carry. It affects every action and interaction, all this baggage. I loved it, loved the pacing and the conclusion.
CAL AND MAVEN BONUS SCENE
When writing reviews, the first thing I do is jot down words or phrases – things I liked/didn’t like, areas to talk about. For this bonus scene (two chapters and a journal entry), I simply wrote: Ah, my heart!
Set during and after WAR STORM, this contains Cal and Maven’s final interaction – and then Cal coming to terms with Maven’s death. I was on the verge of tears at the end. It’s so bittersweet, and makes Maven even more pitiable. His final choice is… well, if you aren’t sure what to think of him, this will make the conundrum worse.
I love how Aveyard, throughout the series, has made him both evil and pitiable, how much you want him to have a redemption arc. This story has all of that, crammed into very few pages, just to hurt you some more.
JOURNAL ENTRIES ETC
Honestly, this was my least favourite part of the book. Presented as Julian’s notes and text excepts, these four sections split up the stories, and are basically adapted world-building documents.
There was some interesting new knowledge about the world and history – I particularly liked the section about all the different countries as some (Tiraxies) only get passing mentions in the series. The different sections were each related to the short story/ies that came next. I like that, as it got me into the right frame of mind.
However, the documents contained a fair bit of rehashing the events of the series (timeline, ‘Monfort’ perspective on war). I can’t really imagine that you’d read the companion without having read the books (and the spoilers are massive), so I didn’t need to be told what I’d just read.
Read my reviews of other books by Victoria Aveyard:
Red Queen (this series):