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.
Red Queen was probably my most anticipated debut of 2015, so I was nervous upon starting it because rarely do extremely hyped-up books meet my expectations. For the most part, though, this one did, or at least my feeling upon finishing it was mostly positive. However, unlike some other bloggers/reviewers who have read this book, I didn’t fall completely in love with it. This was mainly due to one single thing, which I’ll talk about more below. I think I may just be the odd man out, though, because in reading others’ thoughts on the book I sort of feel like I’m the only one that had this issue. So it goes, I guess!
First off, this book is fantasy, but with dystopian elements. Mare lives in a world divided by blood – the Silvers, those who have special abilities which are many and varied, and the Reds, who are the working class and have no abilities. Mare is Red, but through a twist of fate finds herself pretending to be Silver when it’s discovered that she does, in fact, possess a special talent: she can control electricity. And so begins her life as a pretender, where she tries to use her new status in order to bring about a change for her Red brethren. Of course, no YA would be complete without a romance, and it’s brought to fruition here with Cal, the crown prince. However, Mare is actually betrothed to Cal’s younger brother Maven, and does an admirable job of trying to pretend that her feelings for Cal don’t exist. So, yes, there’s a love triangle, but it’s not actually the focus, and because of this I personally didn’t have an issue with it. Still, I know love triangles are a thing that bother lots of folks so definitely wanted to mention it!
One thing I really liked about this book was the world its set in. I liked getting a glimpse of the Silvers and their special powers; some seem really inane and yet all of them can be deadly. I really felt for Mare and her situation, especially since she finds herself stuck between two worlds. She cares for Cal (even though she tries to deny it) but can’t stand his way of thinking – that it’s better for everyone to continue on with the Reds serving the Silvers – even though I have to think he’s actually quite torn about it deep down. She spends a lot of time calling him a liar when she is actually the queen of lying herself. I also really found myself feeling bad for Maven, who’s had to spend his life in his big brother’s shadow. I liked the way the friendship between Maven and Mare grew because it felt more natural in its progression of friends to something more. Her feelings for Cal had a much more “love at first sight” type of vibe to them, and while it worked – my heart really hurt for the two of them by the end of the book – it sure is nice to see the other type of romance featured as well.
Of course, no book would be complete without a surprise twist, and it’s with this twist that I had my biggest issue. I’m actually nervous to even mention this because I don’t want to possibly spoil anyone else, so if you don’t want to get an idea into your head before reading the book yourself PLEASE STOP READING. There’s a lot of foreshadowing in this book, and the same phrase – anyone can betray anyone – keeps getting tossed around practically every single chapter. It definitely sets the reader up with the mindset that things aren’t what they seem. And maybe it’s because of this sense of distrust that’s built up that I sort of saw the twist before it happened. But then again, absolutely no one else mentioned this as being a problem for them, so maybe it’s just me. Either way, it did affect my enjoyment of the book, so I wanted to mention it all the same.
All in all I was pleased with Red Queen and am definitely looking forward to the sequel. I think it has a bit of something for everyone, and while there IS romance, it isn’t the main point. I think more focus is actually paid to Mare and her struggle to fix the injustice of her world through any means necessary, even if those means aren’t always nice and neat. I feel like she definitely did some growing up throughout the book and I look forward to seeing what her choices and the circumstances forced on her do to change her. And also, if the author can somehow fix her and Cal I will be forever in her debt!
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.