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.
Rating: 5 stars
RED QUEEN is a fascinating, compelling dystopian debut from Victoria Aveyard, where the truth is not as it seems. With stunning twists, the story takes us on a sweeping adventure in a world that is different and yet eerily similar to our own.
Mare Burrows lives in a world where the Reds are oppressed by the elite Silvers. Reds are downtrodden, forced to eke out a minimal living for survival. Anybody who doesn’t have a job is conscripted into a war that they’re fighting with their neighbors, the Lakelands.
Silvers, on the other hand, possess abilities or talents, like telekinesis, manipulating fire, etc. They live in nice houses with every luxury imaginable, with Reds doing the menial work for them.
Mare is a Red, as the blood in her veins flows red. When, by some chance, she happened to possess and display abilities–manipulating electricity–she was passed off by the king as a long-lost daughter of a slain Silver general and betrothed to the younger prince, Maven. Yet, she can’t help her feelings for Cal, the prince who once saved her when she was at her most desperate. What about her role in the Scarlet Guard, the revolutionary force that was trying to win equality and a better life for the Reds? How could she betray one for the other? And what is she, a Red possessing abilities that only Silvers heretofore possess?
First of all, I have to admit to having issues with the heroine’s name. How is it pronounced–Mary, Ma-re or Mare, as in horse? I usually pronounced it in my head as “mare” and I would now forever associate her with the female equine. Unfortunate, but there it is. I realize this has probably to do with her second name later on in the story, but I believe there are better names than this.
That minor quibble aside, Mare is a sympathetic, compassionate heroine, though initially naive.
“And Kilorn wouldn’t let me do this, not if he knew I would be in danger. They [the Scarlet Guard] wouldn’t do this to me.”
Though she’s street smart as they come, she doesn’t yet realize she’s a pawn in somebody’s game. She thought her position can protect her, not understanding that she’s nobody, that she can be used and discarded to further other people’s agenda–the Scarlet Guard…or somebody else. I can understand her actions toward the latter part of the story, though I may not like how she manipulated a certain someone by using his feelings for her. But then, all’s fair in love and war, I suppose. When all was revealed, I want to scream at Mare for being so stupid, but I guess I would be too, if I were in her situation. She’s still young, and not jaded yet with years of experience. Let’s hope she becomes smarter in the sequels.
I like Cal. I thought he’s got the proper attitude for a would-be king–going to the Red villages, to the battlefront, to learn firsthand the plight of his people. He’s the crown prince sure, but all throughout the story, I get the feeling that he’s also a Red sympathizer–ok, maybe not exactly that, but that all the while, he’s trying to do things that might make the world better for everyone. Till the end, we don’t really know what or how he would’ve changed things when he’s king, and I wish that he and Mare could’ve talked more, then maybe she (and the reader) could’ve understood him and his ideals/plans better. But that makes for great conflict, right?
I like how the author depicted Maven, the younger prince, who, like Cal and Mare, was not one-dimensional. He has his own fears and ambitions, and layers to his character. I can’t wait to see more of what the author would make of him.
The story unfolds at the right pace, with a balanced mix of suspense, action and romance. Okay, a word to romance junkies: The romance is understated here. There was just enough to whet your appetite for more, but I guess more couldn’t be due to the characters’ situation. There was a triangle (maybe quadrangle) of sorts, but everything was vague. There was a kiss though and a forbidden romance, so maybe that would be enough to tide you over until the next book in the series. I know I can’t wait for the next book in the series, though I heard we may have to wait until 2016.
Update: This is to fulfill the Full House Reading Challenge – Debut Novel by author, and Read Wider Challenge – YA Novel.