(Click book image to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Title: Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Length: 383 pages
Publication: February 10th 2015 by Orion
The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.
That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.
But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart…
This book is written in first person present with the narrator being Mare Molly Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl who comes from a dismal life. Such a thing puts a sour note in her voice, making her narration cynical and blunt. It also adds a heavy bias to everything she sees and interacts with. Such an opinion blatantly leads the reader in a certain direction, giving them little opportunity to formulate their own opinion of the book world.
World: The world of this book is amazing and has lots of potential by creating an automatic divide between castes via their blood color: Silver vs Red. While the world is set up to be a fantasy it uncharacteristically implements common everyday technology, giving it an urban fantasy vibe. Electricity exists. Mass weaponry and transport systems exist. Televisions and radios exist. Combined with the magic, the possibilities for this world are endless! And, unfortunately, not taken advantage of.
Writing: The writing style is intricate. It gives life to the scenery, drawing a picture the reader can imagine with ease, which adds to the world building. However, the writing falls flat in regards to the realism of the characters, their development, and their interactions with each other. Additionally, the way the main character speaks clashes with her upbringing, which is jarring at times.
Pace: This book moves slowly. The main plot isn’t known until a few chapters into the book. Instead, the first chapters rely heavily on world-building and spends a great deal of time developing the setting in order to explain the characters’ current living conditions. The rest of the plot revolves around intrigue and secrets as opposed to suspense, giving it a naturally slower pace, which can still be entertaining to the right readers.
Non-Spoilered Plot: The plot of ‘Red Queen’ is your typical rags to riches, Cinderella story. However, it twists the traditional fairy tale with the addition of humans with magical abilities, but only some. Naturally, this results in a divide among the population based on the color they bleed: Red or Silver. From there the dystopian element of a corrupt government is revealed when Red ‘Cinderella’ joins the glorious world of Silvers. In her new-found position she witnesses society from a different viewpoint. It’s this new perspective that forces her to think about who she is, where she comes from, and who she wants to be.
Characters: Mare Molly Barrow, a seventeen-year-old girl, is the main character and narrator of this book. She is a Red, meaning that she’s human. She isn’t supposed to have any powers and is expecting to live her life in shambles and grime because all Reds are slaves to the magical Silvers. In other words, she’s a down-to-earth, cynical, blunt character who expects the worst from life. This is excessively shown by her need to degrade herself and compare herself to her younger sister by saying she, herself, is not pretty, not smart, not talented, not anything except for a common thief.
From there, Mare loses all personality. She becomes ‘special’ by discovering she, a Red, has a magical Silver ability: electricity, which happens to be an ability that Silvers have never seen before. In other words, she’s one of a kind. Unfortunately, she barely seems to respond to it, or give it any thought. Mare quickly accepts the fact that all women hate her and all men are in love with her and even when she has the opportunity to make a change and take a stand she’s far too relaxed about it, lacking all the necessary fervor to be a part of a rebellion, much less the figurehead of said rebellion.
Plot: The overarching plot of this novel is rags to riches where a lowly Red, Mare, is adopted into the upper crust society of Silvers. Even with this commonplace Cinderella story, this book has the potential to be amazing with the added features of magical abilities, common-place technology, and a war that hits close to home. Unfortunately, this is where the intrigue ends and the predictability begins.
Mare is forced to join the Silvers and hide the fact that she’s a Red with a magical Silver ability on penalty of death, which, for her, is a poor motivator. She lives in a world where she could easily die of illness or starvation in her hometown. Additionally, she was about to be drafted into a war, where death is almost certain. To add to this, none of the Silvers ever truly threaten her life. It’s hyped up, but it’s really just poorly played mind games and a bunch of high-born Silvers toying with the confused, new girl.
However, despite the threat of death looming over her head, Mare, the ‘not pretty’ girl, finds love. Even though he’s a Silver and she’s a Red, he’s a prince and she’s a commoner, and he’s the son of the woman threatening to kill her, she falls for Maven, which works well since he’s her betrothed(another part of the plot to cover up her true identity). However, not only does Maven, her betrothed, fall for her, but so does his elder brother, Cal, the crown prince. Though, he, like Mare, is betrothed to another. With the reminder of her betrothal to Maven, and the feelings she has for him, which keep her from choosing Cal, not that it matters since Maven betrays both her and Cal.
Before the betrayal, though, Mare learns to trust Maven. The two become close when they both offer themselves to the Red rebellion, which seeks equality between Silvers and Reds. To gain ground, they request Mare to be their figurehead. She is the perfect choice because she is a Red who has the abilities of a Silver and can actively fight against them, but even as she accepts, never does she come out and state that she’s part of the rebellion, nor does she act as a figurehead would.
Additionally, the rebellion is given little emphasis, passing them off as something less than threatening. Their attacks are minuscule. No one seems to know about them, which could be attributed to the Silvers covering it up, the tired tactics they use, or their lack of resources in their attempts to gain presence. Whatever the reasoning, the rebellion doesn’t have enough weight for anyone to want to rally behind them or root for them. Even when they conjure a master plan to really tip the scales, it tosses them on their faces because the entire plot relies on Cal loving Mare more than he cares about his role as future king. He doesn’t.
However, Cal feels betrayed by Mare’s decision to help the Red rebellion. In his surprise he takes her to the King and Queen to seek punishment for her actions, but in so doing he sets up a perfect opportunity for the Queen and her son, Maven, to murder the King. With no security cameras, and a sound proof room, it’s all too easy for the Queen to frame Cal and Mare for the assassination. This coup calls for the public executions of Cal and Mare.
The two are thrown into an arena where they have to fight against Silvers who outnumber them. To up the suspense, someone blocks Mare’s electricity powers, which makes her as helpless as a normal Red. For those reasons, their deaths are certain. Even so, the two manage to take out the man blocking Mare’s powers, kill or send their attackers retreating. Not that it matters, because this is an execution, not gladiator. There’s no winning your freedom. No, the two are going to die whether they win or lose, but just when they’re about to the rebellion, the people who were blocked in the subway with countless Silver guards pursuing them and are supposed to be dead, pops out of the ground and saves both Cal and Mare.
With this last-second save Cal and Mare are now forced to join the rebellion and among the rebellion members is her brother, who supposedly died on the war front. Not only that, but he has a magical Silver ability too. Because of this unnecessary happy family reunion and the weak hope for the rebellion in book two, I leave ‘Red Queen’ with two stars.
- Main Female Heroine Character has no personality: Mare isn’t pretty(but her little sister is), isn’t smart, has absolutely no talents(outside of being a thief), comes from nothing, her parents can’t/don’t support the family so the children must, and she expects the worst out of the world(because of her lowly life circumstances). At best she’s bitter, realistic, cynical, and blunt(not even fiery).
- One of a Kind: She’s a lowly
pauperRed, raised to the status of princessSilver to cover up the fact that she has an ability that only Silvers are biologically capable of having.
- Excessive One-of-a-Kind: Her ability is lightning. No Silver in history has possessed this ability. (Note: They state in the book that abilities are passed on from the father and yet they explain Mare’s unique ability by claiming that it’s a combination of the abilities her ‘Silver’ parents had.)
- Over-the-top One-of-a-kind: She can create her own lightning. Other elemental manipulators require a source nearby to control as they can’t create their own element out of nothing. (Mare draws it from her body like an energy source.)
- MIA Parents: Mare’s parents are present physically, but her father can’t work and her mother doesn’t either. Her little sister is the sole breadwinner and Mare steals to support her family, which her mother shames adamantly.
- ‘Not pretty’ girl loved by all boys: Both princes fall in love with her(and she with them), and out of nowhere her best friend has a sudden unexplained attachment after seeing her with one of the princes.
- Alpha Female: All the women hate her and see her as a threat for no obvious reason other than she exists. (Literally all the people who like her in the book are men: Cal, Maven, Julian, Lucas.)
- Rebellion Leader: The rebellion wants her to be their face, their figurehead.
- The Love Betrayal: Maven, the boy she loves and whom she thought was good, is actually evil(hinted at throughout the book).
- Saved from certain death: The rebellion saves them from certain death at the very last second so that they may fight another day.
- No Deaths: No one good/important/close to Mare dies in this book, which is odd given the countless mentions of how easy it is to die. Even her brother is magically brought back from the dead.