Hey guys! I don’t know how many of you read The Kinder Poison last year, but it was one of my favorite 2020 releases, and I was so pumped about The Cruelest Mercy! I pre-ordered it, which is pretty rare for me. However, I have some majorly divided feelings about it. This review is definitely going to have spoilers for The Kinder Poison, so you may want to stop here if you haven’t read it yet! By the way, regardless of my mixed feelings about The Cruelest Mercy, I still love The Kinder Poison, and you should totally check it out if you haven’t already!
After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she’s content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they’re dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he’s the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods’ mark as proof. Even more surprising–he’s not the only one.
Somehow, Zahru possesses the very same mark, giving her equal right to the throne. The last thing she wants is to rule beside her would-be executioner, but she can’t let Orkena fall into his merciless hands. So Zahru, Jet, and their allies must race against the clock to find a way to stop Kasta, because once he’s crowned, there’s no telling what horrors he’ll unleash to win the war.
Zahru will do whatever it takes to keep Kasta from taking the throne…but to stop a villain, is she willing to become one herself? (from Goodreads)
Ahh, so much to say. I am struggling to organize my thoughts about this one for some reason, but let’s hope I can get my opinion across.
The Pros: I love the cast of characters! I love Zahru and her sense of humor( hearing the animals think is still hilarious), I love Hen (who we got to see a lot more of), and of course I love Jet and Kasta. The characters and their complexity definitely make the story.
I also enjoyed the fantasy, just as I did in The Kinder Poison. We got to see new types of magic and learn more about it, and that is always fun. We were also introduced to other nationalities in this fantasy universe, which was fascinating. Can I just say, even if Zahru’s story doesn’t get a book three (which it totally should), I think there are more stories to be told in this world. I really hope Mae writes prolifically in this universe, because I love it!
This last pro is kind of a mixed bag. There was some very interesting character development and questionable morality in this sequel. It was very intriguing, but also a bit disappointing for me, personally.
The Cons: Ok, some of these are real cons and some are more neutral observations. First of all, I was a bit disappointed by the romance. In a lot of ways, the ending of The Kinder Poison felt like it was setting up some serious romantic drama in The Cruelest Mercy. But there was incredibly little progress in any direction. Which was very disappointing, I think because my hopes were so high.
Aside from that, I found the character development to be a little odd, like I mentioned earlier. In The Kinder Poison, Zahru was a very well defined heroine. She was brave and selfless and kind. Most importantly, she truly wanted to see the best in people. She was a much more morally gray character in The Cruelest Mercy. I’m sure some will argue that this made her more interesting, and I understand why she became more cynical after the events of The Kinder Poison. But it also muddied the waters in terms of plot. I was not always rooting for Zahru, and her victories weren’t nearly as satisfying for me. This was particularly a problem in the ending. The ending resulted in some abrupt and unnatural character development which I found frustrating. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t go into details. Something which should have happened naturally through character development happened through magic, and it was very disappointing. It was a pretty weak and sloppy move for me.
All that being said, I did enjoy this one. I just don’t feel satisfied. I’m going to be very sad if Mae doesn’t write a third book because I think there is a lot more potential for character and world development here.
Overall, pretty clean. No sexual scenes, minimal language (all based on fantasy religion), and only fictional religious material. There were fairly frequent LGBT characters, all minor.
I did enjoy this one, but it did not go in the direction I was hoping for. I guess that’s always a risk when the first book is so good. If this ends up being a trilogy, and the third book goes really well, I think this book will be more satisfying for me. But as the second in a duology, I had some issues with it. 3.5/5 stars.
Alright, thanks for reading! Have you guys read this one? What did you think? I’m dying to talk this sequel over with someone since I am the first of my bookish friends to read it. 🙃
Happy reading, everyone!