Courtly Intrigue, Now Exciting: A Review of The Betrayed by Kiera Cass
I must be a soothsayer because I guessed everything that happens in The Betrayed by Kiera Cass. I'm not kidding.
Hello and welcome to Reading Has Ruined My Life. As always, my name is Hannah and this is the mess that comes from my mind when it comes to books. This week, as promised, I bring you another review on a recent YA release. Bring on the tiaras and ballgowns, because we’re jumping back into some courtly intrigue with The Betrayed by Kiera Cass.
Right off the bat, I have to say that this sequel is ten times better than its predecessor. Speaking of The Betrothed, if you want to read my review on it, you can find it here. I admit, it is not my best review, I spelt the name of one of the main characters wrong the entire time and I’m not going to go back to fix the error because this character does not deserve it, but the review is serviceable. I do recommend reading that review just so you are caught up to speed with my thoughts on The Betrothed.
Back to The Betrayed now. As always, a spoiler alert is in order. And when I say spoiler alert, I do mean a spoiler alert. I am going to tell you everything that happens in this book. There is no way around it. This book is a very quick read that clocks in at just under 300 pages so here we go with the synopsis.
Kiera Cass begins the book right where the first one left off. Hollis is traveling with her mother-in-law, Lady Eastoffe, and sister-in-law, Scarlet, from Coroa to Isolte because her new husband, parents, and the rest of her in-laws were murdered the night of her wedding. Like I said in my The Betrothed review, there is no real reason as to why Hollis is moving to another country. I guess it makes some sense that she wants to be with the small amount of family she has left, but she’s literally putting herself in immediate danger by doing so. As a reminder, the king of Isolte wants to kill off the other branches of the royal family so only his descendants have a true claim to the throne. And Hollis has now married into a branch of Isolte’s royal family so there is a lovely bullseye on her back now.
Nevertheless, Hollis ends up in Isolte. Her new family tries to make her feel welcome. That is everyone except Etan. He is a total dick and thinks Hollis cannot be trusted, but he’s also the only male character who is roughly the same age as Hollis. Therefore his is her new love interest despite the fact she was just widowed. That’s right, we got an enemies to lovers trope happening, folks.
Before these two can become lovers though, we have a king to overthrow. It is time to travel to the Isolten court and find evidence of all the king’s wrongdoings. But who will sit on the throne by the end? Will Hollis and her family succeed? Or will more tragedy befall this young woman?
Truthfully, you can probably guess what happens. I basically guessed the entire plot a year before this book was even released and I was just spitballing ideas. With that, you can probably guess the first issue I’m about to bring up. Drum roll please!
The Betrayed is hella predictable. I admit, I forgot about half the things I guessed were going to happen. I also forgot basically everything that happened in The Betrothed. Hey, it has been a year since that book was released, cut me some slack. But even though I forgot literally everything, I made guesses and posted them to RHRML. And when I went back to read them, it made me sad. I wanted there to be something that was shocking. I wanted something that I never saw coming and came out of left field. I wanted something that wasn’t predictable. Yet I ghost wrote The Betrayed.
This brings me to my next issue: Hollis and Etan. I do remember when I first finished The Betrothed, I audibly groaned because I knew these two were going to get together. Silas is dead at the end of the first book, he ain’t coming back; King Jameson is a dick and Hollis has made her choice to not be with him very clear. That leaves Etan. Etan is also a massive dick, not to the level that Jameson is, but he is still a dick. Hollis does not get along with Etan; they pretty much hate each other. Naturally, they’re destined to be together.
Now, I love a good enemies to lovers trope. I am such a sucker for it. There is just something so satisfying about watching two people slowly realize that his, her, or their archenemy is someone they enjoy being around, that this person isn’t as bad as they originally thought, and that there are actually butterflies in their stomach when the other person is around. Ugh, just thinking about this trope makes me happy. It is just such a great trope; especially when it’s done over the course of a multibook series because it makes for such a great slow burn.
I know The Betrayed is only part of a duology. I know that the trope in question doesn’t have that much time to be a slow burn, and it forces the writer to move things along at a much faster pace. But Hollis and Etan just don’t work. They only have a small handful of chapters together in the first book, and even though they are together for the most part of The Betrayed, their feelings change seemingly overnight. There isn’t an in between phase either. They seriously go from hating each other’s guts one day to being madly in love the next. Nothing about them getting together is satisfying. They are not a believable couple. This is probably the poorest done enemies to lovers trope I’ve seen in recent history.
Thankfully, there are aspects of this book that make up for the poorly done romance. Namely the kingdom rebellion. That is the courtly intrigue I signed up for! Not only is this planned rebellion interesting, it also shows some much needed growth and agency in the main characters.
Hollis, bland, boring, naïve Hollis, finally does something smart and worthwhile. She walks straight into the danger zone to uncover secrets and infiltrate the royal family. Give this girl a round of applause for doing something other than whining.
I know it sounds like I’m making fun of her, but I promise you I’m not. Hollis definitely gets an upgrade in the sequel. She recognizes that not everything is about her and her happiness. She’s beginning to acknowledge that other people have problems too, and are less fortunate than her. She is growing as a person and that’s what we love to see in characters.
We also love to see a tyrannical government overthrown. That is always quite satisfying. Even more so when the government is overthrown without an ounce of bloodshed. That’s pretty baller to be quite honest. Points to Kiera Cass for doing that.
Honestly, points to Kiera Cass for everything about the government overthrow and rebellion. Every part of the plan was meticulously laid out. Not everything that Hollis and her family tries to do works out. There are snags, awkward encounters between our heroes and villains, and many, many anxiety inducing moments where one of the characters is almost caught while trying to find evidence against the king. This. THIS! This is what I signed up for.
Don’t get this book for the romance, get it for the rebellion. That’s pretty much all I have to say about this book. The romance is trash, but the courtly intrigue is actually pretty great. The is sequel really is a big step up from its predecessor. There are actual stakes this time, with an actual plot outside of “he loves me, he loves me not,” and there is character development. It’s just brought down by an unbelievable romance.
And on that note, I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with a fun treat. Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask if you aren’t yet vaccinated, and read some good books for me.