“Mastermind” is the third book in Swed’s “League of Independent Operatives” series, so if you haven’t read the first two books then… hey, hi, you should read those and then come back here so we can better discuss this baby. Because in “Mastermind” we are once again put in the middle of two different groups of powered vigilantes who love to point fingers at each other, while bigger, badder problems and forces loom on the horizon. In this third book, we get more emotion from our main character, Mary, as she deals with the consequences of her actions from book 2, and while Mary is forced to confront those demons and learn to trust herself again, she’s pretty much the only character that faces their inner misgivings head on, whether for good or ill.
This third book is really the catalyst for all the moving pieces to get ready for the major confrontation in the fourth book. So, as such, be prepared for the majority of the book to focus on setting up Wave’s mentality toward LIO, and vice versa—mainly through Eloise and Agnes’ point of view. Swed is still a master of making you question which organization is truly the “good” guy, as both organizations are steeped so much in a grey area, with both sides doing what, they believe to be, the right thing. Except for the LIO retirees, of course. Which sets up for a moral dilemma that I really like: how to forgive an organization and trust them once the bad apples are removed, and can you even forgive a past such as that? Which seems to be the epitome of Agnes’ chapters, which, while interesting to get her view point, I have to be honest and say that I also found her chapters to be the weakest. They didn’t always add a lot to the overall plot, and I often found her reasoning for punishing Eloise to be a bit petty, not that Eloise was much better, but as we get to see El’s character growth more, she tends to get a pass from me…
A lot of the characters come across as selfish or petty in this book mainly because all sides are hurting. All sides feel betrayed by the other, and don’t know how to trust one another because of past wrongs. It’s a very human quality, especially for Mary who grapples with how to trust her own instincts again after all the mistakes she made in the previous book, and the hurt she caused, especially to Nathan. But while Mary grows from it, and learns from it, a lot of the other characters remain stubborn, to the point of putting lives at risk, and kind of ignoring the threat Chloe’s organization presents, not to mention the other mysterious organization that’s after the Pearl Knife. But see, THIS is why I say that the main goal of this book is to position those opposing groups where they need to be, along with the weakened position (because of a lack of trust) that Wave and LIO are in, to set up for a potential dismantling of these groups in the next book. Or maybe not, as there are rumored to be 5 books in this series… So be prepared for that kind of cliffhanger that Swed does so well!
All in all, it was nice to see the emotional growth that characters like Mary and Nathan underwent, as well as Sloane, who we do get to see more of in this book than we did in the previous. I just wish some of that emotional growth also applied to people like Agnes, who frustrated me more than she probably should have in “Mastermind”. I loved the moral questions that were brought up in this book, especially where the Pearl Knife was concerned, though I did get frustrated when no one really asked the Knife what was up. Seems like some issues could have been resolved by just “talking” to the mysterious blade. Which is why I am giving this 4 stars; it was just a bit too much set up without resolution for my personal tastes, though I am excited by what Swed is setting up for in the 4th book, and already nervous about how it’ll all end come the 5th… I always enjoy Kate’s crisp writing style though, and am so thankful that she sent me a digital copy for an honest review!
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