2.5 out of 5 stars
After the thrill of the Red Queen series, Aveyard’s sophomore effort slumps.
Normally, pirates and squires and lost civilizations in alternate dimensions and girlheroes would have me rapt. But putting it all in one story means you’d better deliver big, and Realm Breaker misses the mark.
Corayne’s mom is a pirate, but she herself is of even more legendary stuff. When a series of otherworldly gates are opened by a very bad guy, and undead armies pour through, it falls to Corayne to fight for her world. Her requisite band of Goonies is more skilled than the usual trope – an immortal prince-knight, a deadly assassin, a bounty hunter, a sorceress, a squire. Together they attempt to fulfill a prophecy that says only Corayne’s blood + blade combo can send the bad guys back where they belong.
Right from the jump, this book failed to grab me. It starts with a big action set piece that reads like an overlong, medieval History Channel reenactment. (I usually love those. Thing one had no zing.) It moves ponderously to Corayne, who’s pretty whiny, and takes its time getting up to speed. There are strong parts, reminiscent of the best bits of Red Queen, and at least one v. exciting plot twist. (The scene where our gang meets Queen Erida is top notch.) But the world build is confusing. The gateway is a Spindle but Spindles are also beings and some humans have Spindle blood, though the story doesn’t really bother to explain what a spindle is. There’s Cortael (person) of Old Cor (place) and Corayne has Cor blood. The characters are pretty flat and obvious: the honorable one, the criminal, the one with the secret. It’s a pre-fab boy band of YA fare.
Realm Breaker does improve toward the end, as the action and character development ramp up in a clear move toward Book 2. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to hook me back in after such a long wander.
Probably the toughest part of this read is how good Red Queen is. We know what Aveyard can do, and I have all the faith in the world she’ll do it again. On her third series. Until then, I’m afraid the Realm Breaker series gets The Goldfinch Rule: I don’t have to finish something just because I started.