Monday, June 17, 2019

Review: Broken Throne (A Short Story Collection) by Victoria Aveyard

Broken Throne (2019) by Victoria Aveyard is a short story collection based on the Red Queen series. It contains six short stories (four of which have never been published), maps, and notes that serve as an add-on supplement to the four-novel series. From the back cover:
Return once more to the deadly and dazzling world of Red Queen in Broken Throne, a beautifully designed, must-have companion to the chart-topping series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Victoria Aveyard....Broken Throne features three brand-new novellas, alongside two previously published novellas, Steel Scars and Queen Song- as well as never-before-seen maps, flags, bonus scenes, journal entries, and much more exclusive content. Fans will be delighted to catch up with beloved characters after the drama of War Storm and be excited to hear from brand-new voices as well. This stunning collection is not to be missed.

I had high hopes for this series. I became a fan after enjoying the first novel, Red Queen, and decided to see how the plot will play out to the end. The series is part of the dystopian genre, so I knew that the plot would be dark, violent, and psychological. But I did expect to read a happy ending for the main characters, Mare and Cal. Despite the persistent threat of war and conflict in the background, I was rooting for them to get together and finally admit their feelings for one another. In each short story, just when the suspense thickens, it ends with uncertainty--there are more questions than answers. This is an ongoing problem that I noticed from Aveyard's writing. I wanted Mare, the protagonist, to become the hero that would save the divided nations--and find true love with her prince. Instead of a fairy tale ending in Fire Light, reader must endure the angst of watching a teen drama -- avoiding each other, not admitting their feelings directly, and so forth. Near the end of the book, the readers get a few pages that fast forward to the aftermath of the Nortan Civil War. We do not know if Mare and Cal's children became Reds, Silvers, or newbloods -- Aveyard doesn't say, which disappoints me.

I also liked the maps and notes that explained what led to the post-apocalyptic United States. After reading this section, I realized this dystopian world takes place a thousand years later. While I did not care for the ideological insertions such as climate change or nuclear energy, this collection does attempt to elaborate on the background that was not clearly mentioned in the previous four novels. Furthermore, this collection includes two short stories--Queen Song on Cal's mother, Coriane Jacobs, and Steel Scars, on Captain Farley--that have been previously published and act as prequels. I skipped them because they were published in another short collection, Cruel Crown. There was one short story, World Behind, that takes place during the four novels in the Disputed Lands that seemed redundant because it didn't add anything to the plot. While this region may be a safe haven for Reds fleeing the kingdoms, it was random and forgettable -- another waste of pages. The collection would have been better spent on two additional short stories that could have given readers, for example, a sneak peak on Julian and Sara's anticipated wedding.

The best short story in this collection was Iron Heart, which focused on the point of view from Evangeline and Elaine. It was full of its indecisive moments, but it brought closure to Evangeline who was raised to be a queen but must chart a different path. It felt realistic--she got what she desired and was able to live the life she always wanted with her lover, Elaine, who surprisingly is the logical voice of the two. In conclusion, I feel conflicted about this series because. I encourage Aveyard to produce a spin-off series that takes place twenty years later on the children like Kiera Cass's Selection series, especially The Heir and The Crown. In my opinion, readers would enjoy learning more about Mare and Cal's children and Marie's niece, Clara. I think that would bring complete closure that this series deserves than what readers got now. It is quite a huge investment -- each novel averaged more than 400 pages only to arrive to a mediocre ending. Overall, I only recommend this series as a library copy--I would not buy this series because the ending did not meet my expectations .

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