A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mary E. Pearson's The Beauty of Darkness is the last book in the fantasy-romance Remnant Chronicles series aimed at mature teen readers. Kingdoms have been on the verge of war for two books now, and 600-plus pages into The Beauty of Darkness it finally rages and things get especially ugly: Child soldiers are used by the enemy (many are rescued), and there are some graphic descriptions including a man being "halved" and explosions ending in "meadow, horse, and blood, raining down, the pieces still on fire." Things get bloody even before that with multiple skirmishes with swords, knives, bolts, and arrows. Some of the good guys die, but most suffer bad injuries. Two arrows are cut from flesh, a man is slowly poisoned, an abdomen is stabbed with blood gushing, bolts are shot through a hand, punches are thrown, a frying pan causes a concussion, and a sexual assault is halted with a bolt through the neck before clothes are removed. Other mature content includes some drinking of ale and wine and sex twice between the main love interests; nothing is described with any detail, and there's a mention of protection being used. Readers will continue to see main character Lia's amazing transformation from political pawn in Book 1 to prisoner in Book 2 to being a commanding presence out to save the world here -- quite a transformation. She has already learned to trust her instincts and works very hard to be heard, knowing many lives depend upon it.
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What's the story?
THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS begins with the near death of Lia, who sustained two arrow wounds escaping from Venda with Prince Rafe and four of his soldiers. While the main bridge out of Venda has been destroyed, they still don't have much time to escape to one of Prince Rafe's Dalbreck outposts. And once she's healed enough to ride, Kaden and Griz, Lia's former Vendan kidnappers, find them. Lia and Rafe don't know if they can trust them as deserters and not traitors, so Kaden and Griz join the march to the outpost with hands tied. They prove their worth, however, in a skirmish against more Vendan assailants, and Kaden and Rafe enter into an uneasy truce. It's a truce that's tested upon their arrival at the outpost where Rafe is immediately greeted as king instead of prince, his father dead from illness. Rafe sets his mind to getting everyone safely to Dalbreck's castle, especially Lia, whom he wishes to marry and protect from any more harm. But Lia is too concerned about her country, Morrighan, and talk of treachery there, so she insists she must go with Kaden, despite the price on her head. She senses her bigger purpose to unite countries in the fight against the massive Vendan army and won't let even her love for Rafe stand in the way.
Is it any good?
Yes, it's a very long finale -- with the real battle action not happening until after page 600 (sigh) -- but the growth of the strong characters makes it worth the slog. And author Mary E. Pearson makes you care about all the kingdoms preparing for war and what it will cost them. Readers learned sympathy for the oppressed Vendans in Book 2 and now Morrighan in The Beauty of Darkness, despite how Princess Lia's parents treated her. Pearson carefully weaves in the different perspectives through a number of minor characters' backstories. We finally hear Kaden's story in more detail, making his father a worthy nemesis.
While there's spying and treachery aplenty in Morrighan and Dalbreck to keep the story moving -- mostly -- a few glimpses of life in Venda preparing for the war would add some much-needed climactic tension. Readers are told over and over that the enemy is coming, but that's not the same as showing it -- for example, showing the Komizar rounding up mere kids to fight and preparing his arsenal. We're shown a lot of romantic tension, however, and fans drawn more to the romantic story will do plenty of nail-biting as Lia and Rafe's relationship woes unfold.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the battle violence in The Beauty of Darkness. Did you find it jarring, or did you feel prepared for it? Is it easier to read about battle scenes with swords and arrows, weapons we don't see much of today?
What does Lia feel she's called to do? What did it mean when she said, "Why not me?"
Are you satisfied with the end of this series? If there were a spin-off series, whom do you think it would be about?
- Author: Mary E. Pearson
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Publication date: August 2, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 688
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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