Book Review : Blade Breaker

Book Review : Blade BreakerBlade Breaker (Realm Breaker, #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Published by HarperTeen on June 28th 2022
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 578
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The fate of the world rests on a blade's edge.
Fighting beside her band of unlikely companions, Corayne is learning to embrace her ancient lineage and wield her father's powerful sword.
But while she successfully closed one of the Spindles, her journey is far from over.
Queen Erida's army marches across Allward with her consort, Taristan, right beside them, opening more portals into nightmarish worlds, razing kingdoms to the ground.
Corayne has no choice but to assemble an army of her own if she's to save the realm as she knows it. But perilous lands await her and the companions, and they face assassins, otherworldly beasts, and tempestuous seas all as they rally a divided Ward to fight behind them.
But Taristan has unleashed an evil far more wicked than his corpse armies. Something deadly waits in the shadows; something that might consume the world before there's any hope for victory.

Blade Breaker is a novel that’s hard for me to review because I found it to be so disappointing and I want my review to be constructive, despite those emotions. Though I enjoyed its predecessor, Realm Breaker, I found that the problems that occasionally plagued the first novel ran egregiously rampant in this sequel. The “telling” versus “showing” is practically unbearable, sapping out all of the tension in everything, even including scenes that should be high stakes. What’s worse is that this writing style renders everything as rather basic and simplistic or unintentionally humorous. Though I enjoyed parts of Blade Breaker surrounding the villains, Taristan and Eridan, and the development between Companions Sorasa and Dom’s, I absolutely struggled to get through Blade Breaker or even to write this review because I had so many feelings of upset tied to this novel. 


One of my biggest gripes of Blade Breaker is the practically non-existent world-building. The world Corayne and The Gang are trying to save is literally called “Allward,” because it is made up of all the wards on their planet—I am not making this up. Readers learn that there are elves on the planet who came from a different dimension and we literally have two narrators from that race and culture, but I know practically nothing about how the elves, as a whole, live. Other races and cultures aren’t any better. Blade Breaker mistakes every ward having their own battle cry for actual world-building. I literally cannot imagine all of these characters standing around thumping their chests and saying “with you” and thinking it meant anything significant, other than that these characters weren’t afraid of being embarrassed. 


But sadly, I spent a lot of time in Blade Breaker feeling secondhand embarrassment. The novel so desperately wants to include witty moments of banter between characters, but it’s unbelievably forced and awkward. No one could say any of these lines with a straight face. In fact, merely reading this dialogue requires a suspension of disbelief. It’s almost like the author, Victoria Aveyard, had a checklist for including a moment of unneeded banter in each battle scene, in what is surely a desperate attempt to capture some of the magic of The Lord of the Rings, where Gimli and Legolas launch barbs at one another as they compete over their kill counts.


But in Blade Breaker, these attempts at witticism feel super cringeworthy to me because it’s clear that the novel wants so badly to be funny and just cannot manage it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop the novel from constantly attempting humor. These exchanges do not feel like natural repartee between friends and rivals, but out-of-place and forced requirements to be met. At one point, there is an actual exchange between two characters in the middle of a battle for their lives that amounts to this: 


“You lost an eyebrow in this horrible apocalyptic attack from a fiery hell dimension.” 

“Haha, at least it wasn’t my hair this time.” 


And even worse was an actual scene where a villain and a protagonist wrestle for mind control over a dragon. I am unfortunately not exaggerating when I say the lines completely and unironically read basically like this: 


Bad guy: Now you’re under my command.

Good guy: No, now you’re under my command. 


I honestly don’t understand how these types of exchanges seemed like not only a good idea to write, but also to publish. I couldn’t decide what I disliked more, the attempts at levity and humor (when they weren’t even needed because the “telling” style of writing renders everything so bland, making frivolity the last thing I needed), the few tacky attempts at making the prose more flowery or the melodramatic supposed-to-be-serious lines that were incredibly incongruous to the other, normal and sadly, sometimes almost juvenile phrases. It led to a very disjointed tone and made Blade Breaker feel like it didn’t really know what it wanted to be—a serious epic fantasy series, a fantasy parody, or a teen romance. 


Here are a few examples of some head-scratching metaphors:


“The uncertainty was a needle in her skin, never forgotten, but sometimes ignored.”


“The hall echoed with triumph, but all Sorasa heard was the tolling of a death knell. Even as she smiled, dread curled in her belly. It was never far away, but now it reached for her with icy claws, its sting sinking too deep.”


“”Another man would have been my jailer, his leash woven through my crown,’ she said, matter-of-fact.”


Not only is it bad enough that Blade Breaker throws in these types of bizarre, nonsensical metaphors that don’t even fit with each other, but on top of this, the novel adds further statements that read as incredibly melodramatic. Characters have no issue literally announcing “into the jaws of death we go” or that their companions “remained silent, bent but not broken, resolute before their doom.”  Frankly, people do not talk in such a histrionic manner, especially when they’re in life-threatening situations! These types of expressions and declarations are way too over-the-top and make the novel feel more like a parody of the genre, because how could a serious novel ceaselessly state this kind of stuff? Near the end of the novel, I was wholly nonplussed by the villain’s speech, as he went from ranting about how awful humanity is to complimenting the heroineall in one little tirade:


“’You cannot fathom the realms I’ve seen, the endless ages, the limitless bounds of greed and fear. You cannot know how wrong you are. I almost pity you.’ The voice rippled over her, making her skin crawl. ‘And while I hate your heart, I admire it too.'”


Unfortunately, the character development isn’t much better than the attempts at humor and drama. Most characters are nothing more than their fantasy trope. For instance, Corayne, is the hidden “The Chosen One” trope that we see time and time again in fantasy novels. However, even this formulaic background isn’t executed well. When reminiscing about her life growing up, Corayne tells readers that she had no friends or anything of consequential note happen to her—she merely lived her life waiting for her mom to come back from sea and wishing for something more. 


“’I grew up alone, you know.’ Her eyes burned into his, the red lines of dawn breaking over her face. ‘There was Kastio, of course. My guardian. Too old to sail but strong enough to watch over me when my mother was gone. But still, I was alone. I played with maps and coins instead of dolls. I had contacts, business partners, my mother’s crew, but no friends.'”


But seriously, how did this child not have even a single friend growing up or some traumatic experience with a neighbor kid or a kidnapping attempt or anything? We don’t even have a single “I’m-not-like-the-other-kids” firsthand flashback. Even Rand al’Thor, who didn’t spend very much time in Edmond’s Field at the beginning of the The Wheel of Time series, had time between Trolloc attacks to demonstrate that he not only looked different from the other inhabitants of their small town, but also that he had a vastly different lifestyle from the other kids his age because he lived not in town, but up in the mountains with his shepherd father. It wasn’t that Robert Jordan just decided Rand was different and never actually showed the reader through Rand’s experiences.


Anyways, I don’t get why the daughter of an infamous pirate and the last of the bloodline of Old Cor never even had a single bad experience other than being lonely and missing her mom, who quite honestly sucks. Corayne also never shares how she gets into running her mom’s business either, it is just something that’s told to the reader as a fact and not something that’s ever expanded on. There is no kindly retired mathematician teaching her her figures or anything remotely relevant to her acquiring these skills ever explained. It’s this lack of fleshing out of the characters, which is pervasive, that sets Blade Breaker back and makes it so difficult as a reader to care about what happens to any of the characters. And it certainly doesn’t help that most of what we learn about these characters is told to readers outright, not shown through flashbacks, or demonstrated by triggered memories. 


Though Taristan’s hellish god made her shiver, He also brought her some comfort too. What Waits was better than any shield, and he made her husband near to a god himself.”


I will say that some characters are a bit more fleshed out than Corayne or her perfect squire-boy Andry, however. The saving grace for Blade Breaker for me was most definitely the villains. Taristan and Erida, who seek to turn Allward into an empire under their and He Who Waits supreme and malevolent control, actually have some rare layers and complexity to their feelings. Erida struggles with her attraction to her new husband, her bloodthirsty ambition, her need to placate her courtiers, and her fear of He Who Waits and his undead armies. Erida and Taristan’s budding romantic relationship and often horrific actions were the main reason I was able to push through reading this book. I honestly would have much preferred to read an entire series about these two taking over the world and not have to deal with all of these other uninteresting characters who more or less have one defining feature of their personalities. 


“‘Have you grown a heart, Amhara?’ Dom said, incredulous. She smirked. ‘Never, Elder.'”


The only other relationship I enjoyed in Blade Breaker is the reluctant camaraderie between Sorasa and Dom, which might actually be progressing into something more. These two, who have previously had a contentious relationship, have come to terms with the fact that they trust and rely on each other to accomplish their goals. As more comes to light about Sorasa’s past, I was more interested in Dom’s reaction to it than what the novel told readers about her actual past itself. The two relationships between Eridan and Taristan and Dom and Sorasa show the most complexity and nuance this series has to offer. 


I only wish Blade Breaker could manage to do this with all of its other characters. Valtik, one of the other members of the Companions, is universally treated like garbage by the other members of this supposedly noble group. The reason why? Simply because Valtik is wacky, old, and speaks in really simplistic rhymes which it is hard not to blame the author for writing these lines in the first place, instead of Valtik herself. It also feels so fake that all of the characters temporarily stop treating Valtik like the dirt under their shoes after she saves the day again. 


“She wanted to look away but felt locked in place, rooted beneath his gaze. Andry Trelland reminded her of a spring morning at dawn, when the light slanted golden and the grass glimmered with dew. Filled with promise and possibility, but fleeting. She wanted to hold him in this moment, and herself too.”


I also really did not care for the Andry and Corayne relationship, either. Though I knew the author was laying the groundwork for this relationship back in Realm Breaker, I was still annoyed to see this romance go further.  Blade Breaker does a mediocre job at convincing me that Andry and Corayne have somewhat of a bond—it still feels mainly like they’re the only two people traveling the world of the same age and similar trauma. It’s puppy love of convenience between two boring characters—Corayne, the naïve girl who has no life experience and Andry, the goody-goody Squire who has given up his dreams of becoming a knight to aid Corayne in saving the world. 


As I am really not persuaded that these two would choose each other if they had absolutely any other romantic options and weren’t consistently in life threatening situations, their relationship is uninteresting to me and reeks of codependency formed from shared trauma. I also completely agree with Dom that the last thing Corayne needs to do is fall in love and get herself killed trying to save someone when she’s the key to saving the world. Though I’m sure his disapproval is simply thrown in to add some much-needed spice to their bland developing romance, it just feels like good old plain common sense to me, and not at all like the forbidden or epic love I’m sure Blade Breaker hopes their relationship will come across as.


Though I would not be against learning what happened to the four characters of Erida and Taristan and Dom and Sorasa, I, regrettably, don’t care enough to force myself to read the last novel in the trilogy. Sadly, Blade Breaker made me cringe, laugh for the wrong reasons, and question why I spent both time and money on this novel. Due to the lack of exposition in world-building and character development, as well as the incessant telling, I could never quite care or feel any tension about what was happening and instead cared more about when the novel would end.


Book Review : Blade Breaker - Blogging with Dragons

Posted July 29, 2022 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult


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