Series: Red Queen #1
Publisher: HarperTeen on February 10, 2015
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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.
“I’m a Red girl in a sea of Silvers and I can’t afford to feel sorry for anyone, least of all the son of a snake.”
When there are stories that leave you up at 3:41 in the morning, wondering why haven’t I learned my lesson yet, then those are the stories worth talking about. I always try my best to stay away from hype, but sometimes, sometimes I just can’t resist. Red Queen was a good read. And while this story is indeed reminiscent of other YA favourites, it is Aveyard’s writing and world building that win you over.
All her life, Mare has only known how to survive. As a Red, it’s the only thing that matters. Pickpocketing scraps for the family seems like the right thing to do, before she’s conscripted to a centuries-war fought by the Reds and won by the Silvers. Mare can’t afford to waste her time longing for a life elsewhere… that is, until her best friend is forced to join the war. To save her friend, Mare enters the Silvers’ elite society — one of privilege, power, secrets, and to her surprise, a revelation that would change history.
Mare’s world is divided between Red and Silver, but what Aveyard reveals is a story much greyer than expected. Nothing’s certain in Red Queen. There are secrets. Betrayals. Lies. The history between the Reds and Silvers sprawls through centuries of corruption and war, and we only get a tiny smudge through Mare’s eyes. Still, Aveyard never stops revealing glimpses to her readers; ceremonies like First Fridays and the Queenstrial (Hunger Games meets The Selection — anyone?) emulates how Silvers have maintained power over the Reds, while the political intrigue of the courts expose just how corrupt and fragile the Silvers really are.
When I first saw Mare Barrow’s name I read it as “Bone Marrow,” so needless to say, it was all kind of uphill from there. We are introduced to Mare the Survivor, and what we are left with is Mare the Survivor. She is a resilient character through and through — despite her struggle to satisfy her family’s expectations, and even her struggle to fit in the world of royals and Silvers, Mare survives. She adapts. She does whatever she can to protect her family and friends. To some extent, Mare is a survivor to a fault, leaving her heart on the ground, rather than her life.
Cal, too, is a survivor, but he is a survivor for his kingdom above anything else. He’s a soldier — cold, yet merciful when need be, and does what he can to maintain the hierarchy. For Mare, it’s difficult to place Cal, what he means to her, to the story, even to us; but despite how guarded Cal is, you realize how truthful and loyal he is not only to his kingdom, but his character as well.
In terms of romance, there was love triangle going on that took a back seat for me, but let’s just say Mare is dropped in the middle of a forest fire, and god knows how or why she’s there. People burn. Hearts burn. We burn.
Save for Mare, Cal, and Julian, the other characters fell short to me. None were more compelling than the rich world Aveyard has built, and I cannot wait to see what she does in the next instalment. Red Queen is a great start to a potentially amazing series — one that defies genres of fantasy and dystopia, and is embedded in sharp writing and world building.