Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Synopsis: This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.
That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.
But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.
My thoughts: “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 rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”
Chills. If I had to pick a word to describe Red Queen for me, it would be ‘chills’ because I’m pretty sure I had goosebumps the entire time.
Here’s the thing: I know a lot of people had a problem with Red Queen because it’s filled with YA tropes and familiar things any bookworm will have seen before. I will admit that’s true. I recognized a lot of Hunger Games in it (oppressive and ostentatious government, fights to the death in arenas, a flawed female protagonist from the very bottom that decides to rebel and kicks butt, the childhood best friend that develops a habit of fighting back, the soft-spoken and talented little sister…) and I actually finished Cinder not long before–there are a ton of things I noticed that mirrored the Lunar Chronicles.
That’s exactly what turned me off to Divergent and Matched–I was bored. It was too much of everything I’d already seen, and in both series I gave up during book two.
Against that logic, I absolutely loved Red Queen. It’s dark and edgy and sleek and really vivid. The colors of blood–red and silver–represent so much, and I feel like Victoria Aveyard did a magnificent job of using those colors to build such a visual world. And such a terrifying one.
Mare, to me, is realistic. She’s spent her life at the bottom of the food chain, scraping by, with no talents or skills to help her family out besides pickpocketing. She’s rough and tough and selfish at times, but still naive, in a way, because she only knows one way of life. Yes, sometimes I thought her actions were rash or annoying, but it didn’t bother me because it added to her character and was true to who she was. And I liked seeing how different her reactions were in different situations, even if I found some of her choices frustrating.
My favorite part of the book was the entire middle (okay, and the end too, but that isn’t to say the beginning was bad). Mare is found to have silver abilities even though she bleeds red–that shouldn’t happen. While the royals scramble to keep the fragile ‘peace’ of their land, they force Mare to come to the palace and live like one of them. Suddenly a brash red commoner was to become a cold silver princess.
Ah, I loved that dynamic so much. I was enchanted by her time at the castle, at her desperate attempt to fit in. This struggle is heightened even more when she joins the Scarlet Guard–the red rebellion–and is surprised to find she may actually have allies among the maniacal silvers. I held my breath for her in sensitive situations, because we both knew that one mistake on her part, one slip in her show, would cost Mare her life, as well as her family’s and who knows how many others. I absolutely loved that part of the plot.
And, yes, there is a love triangle, though I have to say its one of my favorites I’ve read. It was a real struggle to pick between the two princes, and each time I (and Mare) would sway towards one of them, the other would do something that reigns in the interest again. And I loved it because it wasn’t the main part of the story. Too often in YA I feel like our protagonists are in the fight of their lives–or their countries–and yet all they can think about is what guy they’re going to choose. That’s freaking annoying. Mare had her priorities straight, I felt, at least most of the time. Yes, there were parts of the relationships that were textbook (and did anyone else notice Cal is so much like Kai from Cinder? Not complaining ’cause I love them both, just saying) but overall I thought it was well done. Cal and Maven represented different parts of Mare, so it was as much about her as it was about love, and while everyone fought for what they wanted in their own way, they knew when to put that aside and focus on the more pressing matters. It was solid. And I really couldn’t choose–I loved them both.
Sorry to keep making these comparisons, but the Queen Elara was absolutely terrifying (like, she’s in my nightmares for sure) and I thought she was perfect especially with her power…kind of reminded me of Levena from Cinder. Both great villains, so I’m not complaining. Elara was ruthless, and she always seemed to be everywhere. It was terrifying. I felt so on edge with Mare at the thought that Elara was going to see right through her charade.
But the charade can’t last forever, and eventually we see what truths had been lies all along. Mare had been warned not to trust anyone, and so had I, but I think everyone broke that rule without realizing it, and everyone lost something in the end. I just died. Everywhere. Those last few chapters were just…wow. Heartbreaking and horrifying. And I really loved the climax.
I’ll say no more for the sake of spoilers. I am nervous for the sequel, as the aspects that I loved about the first book were obliterated mercilessly at the end, so I’m both intrigued and cautious at the prospect of Glass Sword. Despite her shortcomings, I’m really hoping Mare can pull through.
Rated 4.7/5 for a vivid world, great love triangle, and betraying my trust so perfectly.