Kiera Cass’ work has never quite been as interesting as it was back in The Selection series, which was a fascinating combination of reality dating shows and old fairytales. The Betrothed is a fresh series which tries to build a world all its own, but it is a mediocre and even sometimes trite exercise in what once made Cass such a memorable and popular voice in the genre. The utter stock stupidity of the plot drags The Betrayed all the way down to a D.
Lady Hollis Easteoffe is fleeing the kingdom of Coroa, escaping the chaos which ensued after she broke her betrothal to King Jameson and married someone else in secret, resulting in the death of her husband Silas, two of his brothers and his father. She’s fairly certain Jameson’s rival, King Quentin of the neighboring kingdom of Isolte, ordered the treasonous action. Her uncle agrees, and the family decamps for Isolte posthaste to dig up details.
In spite of the political intrigue, Hollis feels comfortable with the Easteoffe family, even if she doesn’t understand Isoltian culture. The exception to that is her husband’s cousin Etan Northcutt, who hates her on sight because of her Coronian heritage and points out that she’s being used as a political pawn by Jameson and Quentin alike. But Etan and Hollis are forced to work together as the drums of war begin to beat in Isolte, as well. Are both kings at fault? And will Hollis ever find happiness?
The answer is ‘yes’, but first we have to take a side trip through the Forest of Plot Contrivance and The Swamp of Ridiculous Plot Twists. Have you ever wanted to watch a series’ main villain fall chest-first on his own sword by mistake, conveniently killing himself so no one else has to do it? It happens in this book! And your jaw will drop as it does.
Also convenient: Hollis’ stupidity, which stretches the already threadbare plot to its utter maximum. I didn’t read the first book in the series, so I have no idea how deep Silas and Hollis’ love ran for one another, but she manages to get over her one hour long marriage awfully fast and invest in her slap-slap-kiss relationship with Etan, who constantly mocks her and blames her for the death of Silas and the others. You get no points if you predict they will figure out they love each other when he kisses her to shut her up.
All of the plot twists are obvious, and to watch Hollis struggle against the obvious is almost painful to witness. The worldbuilding is weak, and Hollis’ sole motivation – to not become a queen – is subverted but never really questioned by the narrative.
Teenagers deserve better than this, even in historical fluffy princess tales. In a world where books like Instructions for Dancing exist I can’t suggest you decorate the lives of the teenagers in your life with a book such as this.