Review: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

Review: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. PearsonThe Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles #3
Published by Henry Holt BFYR on August 2, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 679
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars

Lia has survived Venda—but so has a great evil bent on the destruction of Morrighan. And only Lia can stop it.

With war on the horizon, Lia has no choice but to assume her role as First Daughter, as soldier—as leader. While she struggles to reach Morrighan and warn them, she finds herself at cross-purposes with Rafe and suspicious of Kaden, who has hunted her down.

In this conclusion to the Remnant Chronicles trilogy, traitors must be rooted out, sacrifices must be made, and impossible odds must be overcome as the future of every kingdom hangs in the balance.

Before reading the final book in the series (and the one with the best cover), I reread the first two books, since it had been a while, and I was absolutely not going to get everything out of it. I mean, on my reread of The Kiss of Deception, I actually couldn’t totally remember which was prince and which was assassin, so it was kind of necessary. The Beauty of Darkness, and the series as a whole, is a pretty good fantasy, once it gets past the gimmicky opening, but it never quite hits greatness.

Where this series shines most is in world building and plot. Admittedly, I’m a bit less of a plot and world building reader and I read this book about three weeks ago, so the details already fading out a bit, but both The Heart of Betrayal and The Beauty of Darkness had strong plotting. One thing I very much liked about this ending was that so much of it hinges not on massive amounts of cleverness (though Lia is) or convenience or someone being possessed of powerful magic but on diplomacy. Given that alliances are how real world conflicts usually both occur and resolve, that felt simultaneously a bit anticlimactic and really fitting. Similarly, it’s awesome that the larger threat ends up being the internal corruption, rather than the external threat. Not at all relatable right now at all…

One element that really annoyed me over the series was the romance. While unlike some readers, I do actually like love triangles, I’m still picky about them. I don’t really like when a love triangle lasts for three whole books when the heroine was absolutely never conflicted. Sure, she had a couple of moments with Kaden, but she knew from very early on that she was into Rafe, and that never changes. I also absolutely hate the trope of tossing the losing party of the love triangle a compensation love interest at the end to cut the sting. It’s especially weird here because Kaden and View Spoiler » have literally no chemistry, and there’s basically no attempt to sell the reader on their surprise connection. As a character reader, half-assed emotional beats like this really frustrate me.

However, Pearson does do a nice job with Lia and Rafe in The Beauty of Darkness. Though I don’t have strong feelings about the ship, I do appreciate massively the fact that they both put their duty first and foremost and romance second. Those are the kinds of priorities you want in rulers, and they’re not the kind of priorities you often see in YA. It’s also a nice character arc for Rafe, because he spent the first two books setting everything aside for Lia, but he really grows into his role in The Beauty of Darkness. The two have a nice partnership, and I do think their struggles to make their relationship work because of the logistical difficulties brings them to a better understanding of and respect for one another.

While the characterization left me wanting and I think the series would have been stronger solely from Lia’s POV, I do like the journeys the characters take. All of them have to face up to their duties, to their actions, and figure out who they want to be. It’s a great coming of age story, and it’s all about facing up to adulthood (even though they’re all easily adults in the fantasy world). They all really own their lives and choices and act maturely in The Beauty of Darkness, and that’s really fantastic. It’s also the book that focuses the least on romance, and it benefits from that on the whole (minus failing to set up the side ship effectively).

The Beauty of Darkness is a solid conclusion to the series. The Remnant Chronicles didn’t make it on to my favorites list, but I did really like it on the whole, and I will absolutely be reading the spin-off series.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

2 responses to “Review: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson”

  1. Erin in Iowa says:

    I read this series last fall and I loved it so much for many of the reasons you liked it so much — the maturity of the characters and that they made the decisions that were right for the most people, not just for themselves. I remember reading a review on goodreads just after I finished it and the reviewer was complaining about how the romance seemed to be diminished at the end, and all I could think was, “well, sort of, but being an adult means making tough decisions, and lots of delayed gratification.” And sometimes we don’t get a happily ever after right away (or ever!), but we find that we can be quite content and happy in unexpected circumstances.

    • Christina Franke says:

      I absolutely agree with that. Can’t say I tend to emotionally connect with this sort of romance on the same level, but I do think it’s a great thing to have modeled in YA fiction. Especially since most teens aren’t going to marry their high school sweetheart (and many won’t even have one). It’s important that they put their world-affecting careers above their romance; it’s not as emotionally-satisfying, but that’s the point.

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