Author: Mary E. Pearson
Provided Synopsis: 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.
Review: After the promising level of suspense delivered at the end of The Kiss of Deception, I was eager to read its sequel now that I assumed the troublesome aspects of the storyline had been left behind. Lia, Rafe, and Kaden are now in the Kingdom of Venda, and two of them must fight for their survival with deception always on the tip of their tongues. This barbarian kingdom is lead by one man, a Komizar, who is calculating in his quest for power and a keeper of the hand he has yet to play in the game of politics. The love triangle is resolved, for Lia had made her pick. This was what I expected; this, in some ways, is what I received. So why is it that I am still almost as ambivalent towards this book as I was for the majority of its predecessor?
With a three star rating, The Heart of Betrayal is an improvement to the series, but the problems I had with the first book remained, particularly in the area of pacing. This book is long, and it tends to meander along rather than be urgent. These characters are in difficult situations, therefore I had expected the book to reflect their danger and be on the edge of suspense. Instead, Lia is embraced by the people she had thought of as “barbarians” through the role she is forced to take in their lives. As a prisoner to the Komizar she is forced into a visible public role to suit his plans, but I never managed to feel the danger from him either. Was it pacing? Could this book have been more to my tastes if the perils of deception were evident in the pacing and heartbeat of the story? Possibly.
As for the love triangle: Lia had made a choice, but that in no way means that the spare boy is out of the picture. He continues to be blindsided by her actions, and because of her tenuous status she must play with his heart. I felt nothing between these two, but even more problematic was that I did not feel much of anything between Lia and the boy she loves either, for they were barely given time together. I left book one clearly favoring the same boy as Lia; I leave this book not really caring because I felt distant from her interactions with both of them.
Once again, my hope for the next book in the series is for Lia to join again with someone who can help her better understand and work with “the gift” of sight, as well as help her decipher the texts of the Ancients. I believe these areas are when the book shines, and are the key to the discovery of the political betrayals Lia uncovered while in Venda. If you liked the first book, then I think you will enjoy this one as well, because you most likely did not have issues with the things I have mentioned in both reviews. If you were on the fence after The Kiss, then you might continue to hover there with me, for while this book set-up interesting politics, the overwhelming problems lingered.