The Girl Who Dared to Descend

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for previous instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

The Girl Who Dared to Think | The Girl Who Dared to Stand

The Girl Who Dared to Descend was written by Bella Forrest and first published in 2017. It is the third instalment of The Girl Who Dared series, following Liana and her friends as they continue to investigate systematic corruption within the Tower. The novel is preceded by The Girl Who Dared to Think (2017) and The Girl Who Dared to Stand (2017), and followed by The Girl Who Dared to Rise (2017), The Girl Who Dared to Lead (2018), The Girl Who Dared to Endure (2018) and The Girl Who Dared to Fight (2018). Due to this, I would strongly recommending reading them in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

Although Devon is dead, Liana is in more trouble than ever. She has now been captured and awaits trial for her part in his murder. Worse still, she does not even have Grey to comfort her. His injuries are so severe that Leo now inhabits her lover’s neural net, controlling his body while he repairs the damage to Grey’s mind.

Yet, Liana soon learns that she has allies in high places – ones that are capable of controlling Scipio and making it seem as though her crimes were actually in service to the Tower. However, they want something from her in return. The Knights will now need to hold a Tourney to determine their new Champion. Liana and her friends must enter this contest to ensure that a resistance sympathiser – Ambrose – is the one chosen.

It seems like a simple task, but danger lurks behind every corner. Unknown legacies will stop at nothing to ensure that Ambrose is killed before he can advance too far, and Ambrose himself is reluctant to accept the help of a band of criminals. Worse still, they are no closer to discovering who has been hacking into Scipio in the first place. How can Liana protect someone if she does not know how deep the conspiracy goes?

While the first instalment of The Girl Who Dares series was far from perfect, it did leave me wanting more. I was legitimately curious about the Tower’s history and was left with many questions about exactly who was trying to bring it down from the inside. Yet I do feel as though this series has been on a downhill slope since then.

Although The Girl Who Dared to Descend is almost 400 pages in length, these are almost entirely filler. The cliff-hanger ending of The Girl Who Dared to Stand – Liana and Grey’s capture – is swiftly resolved and once this is out of the way, the novel’s tone changes abruptly. Over the course of the previous two books, there have been a number of significant plot points left without resolution. While this third instalment does touch upon the creation of Paragon, the hunt for the missing AI and the possible existence of life outside of the Tower, none of these play a role in this novel. Instead, the plot this time focuses on a lengthy and physically tasking contest.

The very concept of the Tourney is something typical to young adult dystopian novels, and I personally did not think that this was a good thing. The Tourney took the form of a series of trials that tested the skills that Knights excel at, which are mainly fighting and “lashing” (a method of travelling by using magnetic wires). The leader of whatever team won these events would become the new Champion. The focus on this really caused the plot to stall. The addition of Ambrose at this stage felt superfluous, as he did not really make much of an impression and detracted attention away from the more pressing concerns that should have taken up Liana’s time.

I also found the narrative to be a little tiring to read. While the Tourney could have been exciting, it just served to make me more aware of Forrest’s habit of telling things to the reader, rather than showing them. Liana spends pages outlining every strategy to the reader before the each Tourney stage takes place. She also frequently repeats the same information (primarily how much she missed Grey) over and over. With a tight edit to remove all repetition, I think that the novel would have been about a hundred pages shorter.

The Girl Who Dared to Descend also ramped up to a very abrupt cliff-hanger that completely took me by surprise. While the series has been pretty tame to this point, the final sting was so shockingly violent that I feel it does have the potential to disturb sensitive readers. It also resolved nothing, only really serving to raise even more questions regarding the many competing factions within the Tower while not explaining anything.

In terms of character, The Girl Who Dared to Descend also has a lot of issues. Liana still does feel like a twenty-year-old. Her preoccupation with her relationship with Grey and generally childish naivety makes her feel more like a young teen. I also found her to be rather irritating in this novel, as people rarely seem to question her behaviour any more. Liana is rapidly become a sort of Mary-Sue – infallible and massively competent in a world full of people who are far less so.

As most of the other characters are relegated to the background this time around, the only other protagonist of note is Leo. For all that I disliked about this story, I will admit that Leo is one of its brightest points. His gradual discovery of human sensation reminded me a lot of Ax from the Animorphs series and added some much-needed humour to the tale. Unfortunately, Liana is so focused on herself that the novel rarely takes time to focus on Leo’s character development. This disappointed me a lot, as it also meant that his primary motivation of finding the missing AIs was put on the back-burner.

So, I think that about covers everything. All in all, I was really disappointed by The Girl Who Dared to Descend as it was exposition-heavy and ignored most of the plot points raised by the earlier instalments. I will probably pick up the next instalment at some point to see if the plot gets back on track, but I don’t really feel any hurry to do so.

The Girl Who Dared to Descend is available as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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