“It’s our nature. We destroy. It’s the constant of our kind. No matter the color of blood, man will always fall.”
Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen # 1
Publication: February 10, 2015 by HarperTeen
Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king’s palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play 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 everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
What do I even begin to say about this book? It was everything I wanted it to be and more. There was heartbreak, betrayal, action, steamy romance, and awesome powers. I see a lot of people comparing this book to X-Men, and I have to say that they are right on the mutant like aspect – but, these mutants are put into this high fantasy realm that has a medieval tone to it. I mean, Mare – our protagonist – was sort of like Katniss Everdeen, Celaena Sardothien ,and Storm had a threesome and viola, Mare Barrow comes into existence (kidding, but not really). Red Queen takes all of our favorite aspects of fantasy, dystopia novels, and young adult literature in general and puts it all into a giant melting pot while pulling out the best of everything and then shoving it into our faces. I guess you can say that this was like a fairy tale retelling, only this time, it was a retelling of all of our favorite stories rolled into one. Don’t get me wrong here, this book was still absolutely amazing on its own two feet – it can hold its place as a favorite dystopia against all contenders in my opinion – but it still holds the framework of everything else we see in the genre it entered.
Red Queen begins with young girl who grew up in the slums, who hates the government, and who is fighting to survive whatever horrible situation the government has forced her into due to her being some sort of “outcast”. Though, as we all know, she eventually finds out that she is somehow special and different from everyone else. In this case, Mare Barrow has special powers that only the elite Silver Bloods should be able to have – yet she is just a lowly Red Blood. Come on, when we think about it, isn’t everything the same as everything else anyway? All of our horror films, superhero movies, action films, and disaster movies the same? They all follow the same basic structure and no one really blinks an eye at it because there is some hot, bad ass male at the helm of it all. Put the same twist on a young adult novel with a heroine leading the way and people instantly compare it to everything else and jump down your throat for disagreeing. You know what was strange? Even though it followed the same basic pattern, everything else was completely original. The mixture of a medieval monarchy, somewhat medieval setting, and technology was both dumbfounding and intriguing all at the same time. I wanted more of this world, more of the Reds revolting against the Silvers, more of the elite Silver court – it was all wonderful.
I don’t really know how to describe the characters of this book. Mare was wonderful, Cal was a wet dream, and Maven… don’t get me started on Maven. I can’t really get into talking about the characters, especially the latter two, without huge spoilers. It sucks, I want to go on a rant so badly – but I won’t.
I guess I should get onto the basics of the story. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying too much, there are some pretty wild secrets out there that should remain that way. Reds, like Mare, are this worlds version of peasants. They work all day and night for electricity cards, food scraps, and – of course – to ensure the comfort of their betters, the Silvers. The Reds, as is the case with the lower class in this type of book, has completely lost all sense of hope and now refuses to fight back for fear of retaliation which they know will be swift and devastating. According to the Silvers, the Reds are basically trash due to the little fact that the Reds’ blood does not give them special powers in the same way the Silvers’ blood does. Put it this way, the Silvers are basically what everyone is comparing to X-Men. Depending on what family they are born into or what their bloodline is, a Silver can control minds, have incredible strength, shape shift – anything. They are terrifying in all senses of the word. I swear, some of them you could probably find under the definition of fear.
One thing I really liked about this book was that it took place at court rather than in the slums like most dystopia novels do. We get to see the glitz, the glamour, the absolute grandeur that is living at Silver court. The entire thing was like some sort of crazy mix of court life on the television shows Reign and Game of Thrones, the Iron Fey Winter and Summer courts, and then King Henry VIII’s court from The Other Boleyn Girl. The court life here was deadly, say the wrong thing and you could wake up to someone slitting your throat. Even just looking at somebody wrong could get you killed, and Mare gets thrust into it all with no preparation or warnings. She has to survive this mess, pretend to be someone she isn’t that everyone else seems to know something about, and try to stop the rebellion and her friends enlistment all at the same time.
I know that the book tags on Goodreads say this book is a romance, and sure, there are some romantic moments involved, but this is in no way a romance when put up to the standards of other romance novels. There is no love triangle, nothing – not even love, at the end of the book. You know how Young Adult books like to introduce a new love interest at the end of the first book, and we all internally just go “oh shit”? There is none of that here, and I can’t commend Aveyard enough for that. This book can’t even be called a romance, there is no such thing in this world, there is only survival.
Overall, this book was absolutely fantastic. Full of domineering princes, frightening supernatural gifts, revolution, heartbreak, and betrayal, Red Queen will worm its way deep into your heart and it won’t let go. This is one book I will treasure for years to come. I can’t wait for the sequel! Especially now that it has been announced that there will be a movie directed by Elizabeth Banks. How awesome is that?