Title: Merry Arlan: Finding The Heir (Guardian Cadet Series #2)
Author: Will Soulsby-McCreath
Publisher: nopoodles everything books
Publication date: March 14, 2023
One Sentence Summary: After the events of the first book, Merry finds herself part of a team to bring former Lackey Nathaniel Larrings to the Elven Court for trial, where the Queen also expects Merry to take the title of Lord Smeeten, which would effectively end her career as a Guardian.
After the events of the first book, Merry Arlan: Breaking The Curse, Merry’s late uncle’s Lackey has been arrested, and Merry now finds herself practically ordered to accompany the Guardians as they escort the Lackey back to the Elven Court. And Merry has to go if she wants to decline the now vacant Lord Smeeten place in the Court, because it’ll be her duty to find a suitable heir.
But all is not quite as it seems when the Guardians reach the Elven Court. Assassins are out to kill the Queen, and Merry finds she was never instructed in how to behave as an Elven Lord. As the deadline draws nearer and as assassins grow bolder, Merry finds herself needing to lean on the one person she’s spent years despising, though they may have more in common than she thought.
Merry Arlan: Finding The Heir is a worthy second novel in the Guardian Cadet series. While it takes Merry from Shima, where she trains as a Guardian Cadet and lives with some truly wonderful friends, it opens up the world and forces Merry to stand on her own feet a little more. I missed her friends on Shima, but I loved that this novel pushed Merry to face her past and the traumas it put her through. It gave Merry a choice that sometimes felt like not a choice at all, and made her face an uncertain future with Kalik, a Guardian Colonel who shouldn’t be in a relationship with a cadet. Where the first book touched on so many things it should have collapsed on itself but didn’t, this second book focused much more on Merry dealing with her history.
I adore Merry. She has such a beautiful heart, even when she knows it’ll hurt her, which makes the ending all the sweeter. Here, she has to deal with the trauma of her childhood while also discovering new pieces of her history she hadn’t even known. I loved getting this peek into her past, loved the flashbacks she had that showed just what a number her uncle had done on her and Larrings. It was heartbreaking at times, but also said so much about how strong Merry is. She’s still reckless, still driven, but there’s also a bit of resignation in her as she faces a choice that doesn’t really seem like a choice at all. And yet she still believes everyone is worthy. I love her so much, and just wanted to give her the biggest hug.
Just like in the first book, Merry’s romance with Kalik is given a light touch. It’s never a big focus, and that’s what I love best about it. They have their duties, and they take them seriously. I did like how them staying in Smeeten’s home made things a bit different, as I imagine hiding a relationship under the nose of several Guardians, including the Commander, must be difficult. I loved their stolen moments, and they’re a good deal spicier than what the first book treated readers to. But things between them are far from settled as Kalik is avoiding telling the Commander about them and Merry is struggling with staying a secret, but they just work together so well on so many levels, and I absolutely loved them at the end.
Merry Arlan: Finding the Heir isn’t just about Merry finding the next eligible heir and her having to hide her relationship with Kalik. It’s mostly focused on her relationship with Larrings and her trauma-filled childhood. As the niece of an Elven Lord and the Lackey of the same Lord, they’re in two very different places in the Elven hierarchy, but there are deeper ties between them, which was fantastic to explore. I loved getting to know Larrings a little better, and loved how there’s still so much care between them despite the fact they’re supposed to hate each other. Theirs is very much a love-hate relationship, but, as the story delves into their history together, threads begin to untangle, and it’s impossible to not feel for them as they both suffered. There’s a great number of differences between them, but I loved that there will always be a bond between them. The way this book ended for them was lovely, and I loved the way it tied together with the rest of the book as well as the first book. It was fantastic to see Larrings as a much more complex character, especially since he seemed a little all over the place. I also just really loved how Merry was forced to face her past and work through the things that had been done to her that resulted in everything she had done and become. Everything isn’t magically fixed, and she’s certainly scarred in a lot of ways, but it also felt like she was really capable of stepping forward into a brighter future.
Part of the heart of this book was Merry diving into her history and trauma, and part of it was about a plot to end certain ways the Elven Isles had become accustomed to, and I loved how perfectly it brought in elements from the first book. This plot felt exceedingly well thought out and planned, and I loved seeing how it played out. I would never have guessed anything that happened in the second half, so I really enjoyed being surprised, and loved how it fundamentally changed the Elven Court and, hopefully, how the Elves lived thereafter. It was a fantastic plot with several moving pieces and things that had been set up years and years before. It wasn’t the most complicated plot, but I think the truly wonderful thing about this series is how it manages to split the focus between the story and things like mental health, trauma, and diversity.
There isn’t as much diversity in this novel as the first, but, seriously, I loved that the Elven Queen is in a wheelchair and there’s commentary around that. The comments felt entirely too real, and I felt angry on the Queen’s behalf; it so sharply mirrored our world. But the Queen is always dignified and always felt in control. I still also like how there are so many races that coexist together. This is better seen on Shima, but the Guardians do a great job of accepting all races into their ranks. The Elves felt less welcoming to diversity, which helped spark a part of this story and contributed to Merry’s mixed heritage issue, and I really liked how important it was to the story.
Merry Arlan: Finding The Heir had a softer quality to it than the first book. There’s a little less danger, but very real trauma that needed to be dealt with. I really liked how this one focused more on Merry and let the reader get to know her a little better. She’s such a fantastic character, one I wouldn’t mind meeting in real life. She went through some great changes in the first book, and I think that served her well in this one. I adore the deft hand that deals with the heavier topics, so it always felt important to discuss but never overwhelming. There’s something really beautiful about this series that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Merry and Kalik and the rest of their friends.
How many cups of tea will you need?
5 cups of tea
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