Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Think Red Rising meets X-Men and The Last Airbender meets Game of Thrones meets Cinderella… Red Queen is the story of Mare Barrow, a Red girl with a secret even she doesn’t know about.
The world of Red Queen is a futuristic one, where there are two types of blood: Red and Silver. Redbloods are the normal people, the ones who toil away in dust and misery, who must find a job or be sent to fight and die in a meaningless war; the Silvers are the elite, the powerful, the Royals. To have Silver blood means to also have an ability: manipulation of specific elements, telepathy, strength, healing, etc.
Mare is a poor pickpocket who is destined for conscription when she unexpectedly meets a dark and handsome stranger who ends up saving her life and offering her a job with the Royals. It is there, by an unfortunate accident, Mare discovers a dormant power hidden inside, meaning she is a cross between a Red and a Silver, and must be kept secret.
Through a coverup scheme, Mare ends up as part of the Royal entourage, and doesn’t know who to trust, who to love, and who to deceive as she struggles to remain a Red in a Silver world.
The writing was easy and fluid in a way that made it easy to follow and picture the events, particularly in the action scenes. Though the first half was slow, the second half built on the suspension and sped up. Plots were built, torn down, and overthrown, with twists and turns throughout. Pay attention to the foreshadowing, because it shows up later, its teeth snarling and wretched.
One really great thing running throughout this novel was the characterization. Mare, though not always right or even charming, stayed true to who she was, even if that was a selfish, manipulative, fish-out-of-water who at times was really awesome and other times self-righteous and short-sighted. Because it’s a Young Adult novel, of course there’s a love triangle (square?), but it’s built in a crafty way, with no real “winner” among the candidates. Both Princes were adorable (until, well… that moment) and lovable and charming in their own ways. The supporting characters, Lucas, Farley, and Julian, were still fleshed out, and the evil brother-sister Samos duo were malicious and conniving and convincing. It makes it hurt that much more.
One line in particular called attention to the plague that haunts most YA books, which Red Queen admits but then demolishes: “You want me to pin my entire operation, the entire revolution, on some teenaged love story?” So many YA novels are stricken with the epic teen romance that exists amidst chaos and fire, where protagonists are more concerned with their love than the crumbling world around them, where sometimes entire plots happen because of said romance. Red Queen throws this back in the face of YA in a much-appreciated notion of realization and rebellion.
The problem with this book was the premise of the rebellion. The backstory was never fully fleshed out enough, and Mare doesn’t seem like the right person to be at its front. She weakens at the role of assassin, is too worried about what others think of her, and makes some poor decisions. She’s not intelligent or super-crafty, and the Crown Prince made a lot of really good points against the rebellion that she couldn’t really defend against.
Another thing working against Mare was her quick backpedaling from admiring the Crown Prince to hating him. He did what was expected of him, what he believed to be right, and she turned on him because it didn’t fit in with her wants and beliefs. Obviously they’re going to have different opinions on the state of the rebellion, they come from different backgrounds, so for her to just shun him so quickly is exactly what she’s accusing the Silvers of doing to the Reds.
This isn’t the happy ending story of a perfect rebellion run by teenagers. Things fall apart, plans backfire, and deceit lurks behind every smile.
Just like in Game of Thrones, no one is safe, and actions breed consequences. Not everything goes as planned, and evil is hidden. The ending of the book is not a happy one, but it’s one that breeds a small semblance of hope for the characters and a wanting desire for the next book in the trilogy.