“Anti-Hero” picks up shortly after where “Alter Ego” leaves off, with Mary’s secret identity in shambles and on the run, hunting down those responsible for taking her parents away, and dismantling the lies she held as truth for most of her life. So, don’t read this review if you haven’t read Alter Ego yet (and you should read that, by the way) because there will be mild spoilers for the first book in the series in this review. But in this middle book of the trilogy, Swed does a wonderful job of both answering lingering questions, giving more background on the vigilantes now that the world building is done, while still surprising the reader with new characters, new revelations, and one hell of a twist at the end.
The thing I always love about Swed’s writing is how crisp it is. Even when things are going crazy, the author is able to write in such a way as to clearly lay out all the action, where characters are, or what they are doing without unnecessary fluff. This comes particularly handy with the multiple POV’s this book has, including a new character we meet and get the POV of occasionally. That style of writing really helped the book’s flow and kept the plot moving, even though I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story at the start. It could have been because there is no recap and so I had to pause and try to remember things from the previous book, or the fact that this new character felt too far removed from the main cast and story for much of the book for me to care much for the POV, but I wasn’t as immediately swept away by “Anti-Hero” as I was with “Alter Ego.” But all that changed come about the half way mark of this beauty.
Swed teases how unhinged Mary has become, how out of character this unfamiliar feeling of utter betrayal forces Mary to act and how desperate that makes her. The author also does more justice to Eloise’s character, her own struggles, and giving us more about the incredible Pearl Knife that Eloise wields. We also get more of Nathan and his complex relationship with his family (even if I felt like Chloe could have used a bit more building to her to make her feel fully fleshed out). But the thing that really blew me away and had me binge reading late into the night was seeing the old guard of LIO come back into play. Those characters further muddy the waters around “good and evil” “black and white” and highlight the true message of Swed’s series: there is only grey. I loved getting more explanation about some of the enhanced characters’ abilities and watching an unenhanced person still go toe to toe against incredible odds. And while Mary does a fair amount of growing in this story, Eloise’s character arc was by far my favorite and my heart just broke along side of hers with that cliff hanger of an ending!
If you aren’t a fan of cliff hanger endings, don’t worry, the next book in this trilogy is out now so you can immediately move on to the next book, and, trust me, you’ll want to because I know I do! My minor qualms with the first book, with wanting more explanation of the abilities certain characters have, as well as the origins of the conflict between LIO and Wave, do get addressed in this book, and I appreciated that quite a bit. So, the only reason I’m giving this book 4 stars again is because it took me a bit to feel like I was IN the story. But this book in the series definitely leans more into the Marvel Civil War vibes, so if that’s your thing, you need to read this book and this series ASAP!
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