Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
By: Victoria Aveyard
Release Date: February 10th 2015
*Beware: Spoilers ahead!*
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood – those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn’t know she had. Except…her blood is Red. To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart.
Mare Barrow’s world is divided into two: rich and poor, powered and normal, Silver and Red. As a Red, it’s all Mare can do to keep herself and her family alive as she counts down the days before she’s sent off to war, a war in which Reds are forced to fight and die by the thousands to serve the whims of the elite Silvers. When Mare ends up with a job at the royal palace, she’s just glad that she won’t have to see battle. But an accident reveals that she possess a Silver-like ability—an ability that she can’t explain, an ability that threatens the world the Silvers have so carefully crafted. Suddenly Mare finds herself thrust into the world of the Silvers and betrothed to a prince as part of a plan to keep the Reds under Silver rule, a plan that she vows to fight against. As she works with the Red Rebellion to fight for her people, Mare is drawn into a world of power and betrayal that threatens everyone she cares for and the world as she knows it.
From the moment I saw the cover for Red Queen, I knew this book was going to the top of my “To Be Read” pile. Can we just take a moment to enjoy the powerful simplicity of that cover? An elaborate silver crown, dripping with red blood—it’s symbolic of the plot in a number of ways, but even if you never did more than admire the cover, it’s still a haunting image. Once I began reading, I knew that this was a book you could definitely judge by the cover, because they were both fantastic. I always love stories with superpowers. It doesn’t matter if they’re mutants or aliens or simply evolved humans, I love how many different abilities can be incorporated into a storyline. Red Queen does a great job of introducing many different powers without seeming overwhelming. The different royal houses have specific power classes, and I loved the way that these powers were introduced first through the First Friday fights and then through Queenstrial. The Queenstrial scene reminded me a lot of a cross between Kiera Cass’ The Selection series and The Hunger Games, and it was totally awesome! Talk about having to really win the prince’s hand! This scene also provided one of my favorite mental images of the entire book: the tiny Rohr Rhambos crushing stone statues with her bare fists. I couldn’t help but picture Vanellope von Schweetz from “Wreck-It Ralph” with Ralph’s hands just wailing on the arena and destroying everything in her path. It was a great way to show off the “everything is not what it seems” thread that is so important to the rest of the story.
I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about Mare when the book first began. Yes, she was an independent, feisty character, but the way she was set up—lawbreaker, but only to help her family; poor, thanks to the way the elite treat the Reds; ready but unwilling to participate in the war—reminded me a lot of Katniss. Which isn’t necessarily bad. I love Katniss as a character, but one of her is really enough. That all changed when Mare sought out the Scarlet Guard. Unlike Katniss, Mare was willing to be part of the rebellion against the Silvers. She knew the way the Reds were treated had to change, and she was willing to do something about it. Once Mare discovered her powers—control of electricity, how sweet!—and became Lady Mareena Titanos, things really got moving. The king and queen didn’t trust her, but they needed her help in quelling the Red rebellion. Cal, whom Mare had met before under false pretenses, is heir to the throne and must do his duty, even if that means his actions make things worse for the Reds. But at least she has Maven, who is willing to turn his back on his royal heritage and leak information to the Scarlet Guard. He quickly becomes Mare’s friend, and it was nice to see what was originally an inconvenient betrothal turn into the possibility of a true romance.
Or so we and Mare are made to believe. Aveyard does a wonderful job of creating a good bad guy in Maven. He’s the sympathetic ear, the one who helps Mare navigate her way through the Silver world, who understands what it feels like to live in the shadow of someone with more power. He, like his mother, is a master manipulator, and he set everything up with a deft hand to ensure that the crown maintained its power and that it’s sitting on his brow. He willingly fed his brothers to the lions—in this case, Cal’s ex-fiancée and her brother—but Maven still felt a twinge of conscience at sentencing Mare to the same fate. I thought it was significant that Mare had managed to have such an effect on him that he was willing to alter years of planning to save her life. Her rejection pushed him further off the deep end, and I’m sure this is going to cause Mare even more trouble in the future.
There’s almost the set-up for a love square for most of the book, until Maven’s betrayal cuts it down to a love-triangle. Again, a similarity to Katniss, but still different. Unlike Katniss, Mare isn’t so busy with the rebellion that she doesn’t take time to consider romance, but like Ms. Everdeen does initially, Mare chooses herself over any suitors. I’m all for girl power and solidarity, but I also appreciate a good helping of romantic drama, and we definitely get that here. Now that Maven is out of the picture, it will be interesting to see how things progress between Mare, Cal, and Kilorn. I can’t say that I’m leaning one way or the other for anyone’s ‘team,’ but I’m sure that will change in the next book. Obviously Mare has some feelings for Cal, but it’s too soon to tell if their new mission to kill Maven will bring them together or show them just how different they really are.
But forget about romance. Let’s talk about the ending of this book and the Bowl of Bones. The Bowl of Bones! This is where similarities to The Hunger Games pop-up, but this arena is so much different. Instead of 24 trained but overall normal children fighting one another, Cal and a powerless Mare are forced to face a handful of once-friends with a range of powerful abilities. They do well enough for a while, but it’s clear that they can only win with Mare’s electrical powers. And oh, how she uses those powers! Forget pulling electricity from lights and force fields, Mare harnesses the powerful of a thunderstorm to fight their attackers. This scene was so powerful and so well written. It’s definitely one of my favorite literary showdown scenes. And luckily, when even the power of a storm isn’t enough, the Scarlet Guard sneaks in to save the day. I was excited to see that Shade, one of Mare’s brothers who had supposedly been executed in the war, show up at the end. Like Mare, Shade is a Red with the Silver ability to teleport. This was another one of my favorite mental pictures. Can you just imagine the soldiers who were ordered to kill Shade who suddenly find their prisoner—poof!—gone? I imagined a bunch of incompetent lackeys who were like, “Well, he’s gone. We’ll just tell the boss he’s dead and hope he doesn’t show up later.” Because that always turns out so well. Regardless, I was glad that because Mare had ended up in her situation because she was trying to take care of those she loves, it’s only fitting that she now has a few of those people with her as she heads deeper into the fight against the Silvers.
The ending is a cliffhanger, of course, but it leaves you feeling satisfied, with just enough of the loose threads tied up that you don’t feel irrationally angry at how long you have to wait until Book 2. I’m still angry at having to wait, though, because Mare’s story is filled with all the elements that make up my favorite books—superpowers, secrets, and epic fight scenes—and I can’t wait to read what will happen next! Victoria Aveyard truly knocks it out of the park with her debut novel, and I just know that anything she writes, Red Queen-related or not, will be a twisty, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that will keep me up reading until all hours of the night.
• In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that. The gods still rule us. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.
• I can feel all eyes on me, the burned Red girl. The human lightning rod. Evangeline stares at me, her eyes wide. She looks angry, confused—and scared. Of me. Somehow, she is scared of me. “Hi,” I say stupidly.
• Farley scoffs. “You want me to pin my entire operation, the entire revolution, on some teenaged love story? I can’t believe this.” Across the table, a strange look crosses Kilorn’s face. When Farley turns to him, looking for some kind of support, she finds none. “I can,” he whispers, his eyes never leaving my face.