Talk about literally picking up at the precipice of the last novel. Thank goodness I had Heart of Betrayal lined up in my queue because the action picks up right where we left off. If you haven’t read Kiss of Deception, you may want to come back because there will be spoilers.

The bridge is literally closing as this novel begins. So, we’re in Venda now and it seems like everything is over. Rafe tracked Lia & Kaden and revealed his true self to her at the bridge. Lia has no idea what to make of this revelation, compounded by the fact that she is now a prisoner of Venda/the Komizar and never expects to leave Venda again. Kaden is hopelessly in love with Lia and seems pretty inept for being the Assassin of his Kingdom.

The Remnant Kingdom expands into the barbarian land of Venda in this novel. Pearson expands the rich histories of the Kingdom again with further excerpts from “The Last Testament of Gaudrel,” “Morrighan Book of Holy Text” and the “Song of Venda.” In addition, we are introduced to other written and oral histories from the Vendan side of the Great River. Lia’s part within and among these texts solidifies as the novel progresses.

As with the Kiss of Deception, we are still in the midst of a love triangle, square, hexagon, possibly octagon. Soon, practically every citizen in Venda is in love with Lia for reasons you wouldn’t have imagined at the beginning of this novel. It’s very interesting to compare the Lia at the beginning of this novel to who she is at the end. But, for the torchbearers, the first and top two contenders, Rafe and Kaden, still vie for Lia’s affections. However, instead of a game at a carnival, they must connive and convince Lia to stay with them in the midst of playing court politics. But with all of them wrapped up in playing their roles at court, this love triangle may not be as straight forward as the boys once thought.

The Komizar is our bad guy. He has absolute control of his Kingdom, army, citizens, advisors and governors of Venda. What the Komizar says, goes. He is the beginning and end of the law and justice in this land. Regardless, Lia meets him in protest from their very first interaction—he makes a delicious adversary and, she, a worthy challenger. “I had been silenced for too many times by those who exerted power over me. Not here.” CHILLS. I loved reading their little game of chess.

One of the other things I really enjoyed about this novel was the expansion of the political/social structure of Venda. Once again, Pearson applies her lush language and pacing to explore the culture of this foreign land. There are details and traditions to learn, but Pearson doesn’t make the learning tedious. She unravels these items at a slow, spread-out pace so the reader isn’t ever overwhelmed by a long soliloquy of structure that they’ll need to remember, but constantly forget.

This is an excellent example of a well-written 2nd novel in a series. The existing world expands in a way that grows the story from the first novel. New characters are introduced and old characters are expanded enough for the reader to better understand their role in the story. Mysteries are revealed and others are resolved. The pacing changes enough to have kept me hooked. And the ending, well, it makes me want to shout from the rooftops: “MARY E. PEARSON, I NEED AN ARC OF THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I CAN’T WAIT ANOTHER MOMENT!!”

The final installment of The Remnant Chronicles Trilogy, Beauty of Darkness, is expected to be released on July 5, 2016.