Another hyped-up series! How can I resist? I’ve been looking to get to this series for a while and now that the third book is out, I went ahead and got all three for a back-to-back reading. Red Queen has been blowing up GoodReads since its release in 2015 and judging from the sheer volume of reviews, I knew this series was in my future. It’s my favorite genre and I’m a sucker for series. Orion | February, 2015 | Paperback | 383 pp
In Aveyard’s world, the people are separated by blood. Those with silver blood rule over all with amazing abilities used to frighten, control, and enslave. Those with common red blood serve the Silvers in poverty and fear. They also serve on the front lines of a century-old war, spilling their red blood and dying for their cruel Silver masters. To frighten the Reds into submission, they are required to participate as spectators at gladiator-style fight between Silvers. This serves to show how strong Silvers can be and why you should never rise up against them.
Mare Barrow is a young thief and lowly red coming up on conscription time. With no job, she will be sent to the front lines when she becomes of age – and there is no hope of escape. Her older brothers had already been sent to war, her sister and her best friend both had lost their opportunities to avoid conscription, and Mare was picking pockets at the bottom of the barrel when she was caught by a mysterious young man. Instead of finding herself punished, she lands a job at the Silver palace. Conscription has been avoided, for now.
She begins palace work on an unusual day. It is Queenstrial and the noble young women of age will compete for the hand of the prince, showing off their powerful Silver abilities. When the last and strongest competitor shakes up the arena, Mare is sent flying to her doom. But she doesn’t die and is publicly revealed to have powers of her own. Reds aren’t supposed to have any powers, a fact which creates an unusual opportunity for the royals.
With a group of rebel Reds rising up against the Silvers, the king and his devious queen decide to use Mare as a political pawn. Although her blood runs red, they lie and say that she is a long-lost Silver who had been raised by the Reds after being orphaned following an attack perpetrated by their enemies. Mare could bridge the gap between the Silvers and the Reds by acting as a conduit, a faux-Silver who has the potential to be loved and trusted by the Reds.
But Mare has no intention of following through in their royal intrigues. She has her own plans. Using her connection to the Red Guard, the Red rebel group, she believes she can hurt the Silvers the most by being exactly where no other Red can be – in the middle of their elite world. The question is, who can she trust? Cal, the eldest son of the royals and the one who has saved her several times yet supports the current caste model? Or the quiet second son Maven, the one to whom she is betrothed and the one who empathizes with her world?
First, I’ll say that I enjoyed it! It was exciting and an absolute joy to read. Getting lost in this world was all too easy. I did find it very similar to other books, almost like a mixing of: Throne of Glass (where a girl of lowly stature finds herself living it up at the palace), The Winner’s Curse (a political fantasy pitting the ‘haves’ with the ‘have-nots’), and Red Rising (oh, those lowly Reds). In that sense, it didn’t blow me away with originality.
The world building is a little jarring. I couldn’t quite grasp it or see it perfectly in my mind. The Silvers lived well in mansions and palaces with all the comforts of modern technology: electricity, televisions, automobiles, and even jets. The Reds practically lived in 18th-century squalor, with the exception of sparse electricity. The world had a feudal setup with serfdom and castles, and, bizarrely, high-tech advancements only benefiting the Silvers. It really didn’t make much sense except to illustrate the extreme disparity. Then again, it doesn’t have to make sense. This is high fantasy.
On Mare’s character, I quite like Mare’s special power. And I can’t wait to see where it will lead since her power has the ability to grow into something extraordinary. I also love the fact that she isn’t wishy-washy. She isn’t constantly dwelling on her appearance or her love interests.
This first books ends with some pain. Betrayal, betrayal everywhere. Even our precious Mare betrays others and it is incredibly painful to read. I love a book that can hit me in the heart. I will be reading the next two in the coming weeks and I can’t wait.
by Victoria Aveyard