Written by: Victoria Aveyard
#1 out of 2+ in The Red Queen series
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary (from Goodreads): This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. 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.
Review: Just real quick – can we appreciate how stunning this book cover is? I 100% judge a book by its cover, then its content, and I proudly claim this. I love the simplicity and the starkness of the red, and the notable small size of the tiara. I kept seeing this cover around bookstores and was initially turned away because of its size and its price, but I finally gave in one day and I don’t regret having bought it.
Anyway, anytime there are references to gods, god-like, modern mythology, etc., I’m pulling the book into my arms without a second thought. I have a pretty intense obsession with Greek, Rome, and Egyptian mythology, and love to see how some authors mold it to fit their own fictions. On that note, I was a little disappointed – the Silver’s “superpowers” are solitary and not related to mythology at all; although they are trained to be fighters, brains, and so on, they don’t come with laser vision + ability to fly + strength automatically, more like X-Men than Superman. Some of the superpowers – like Mare’s, naturally, as well as Evangeline’s amazing control of metal and the Queen and Julian’s mind control. I also like the implication that powers can be genetic, as seen by the King’s and his sons’ control of fire.
But that’s okay, because the plot line makes up for what my hope of mythology lacked. I’ve heard a lot of people say that The Red Queen is just a one-off on Red Rising by Pierce Brown, in the sense of castes defined by “color”, but this doesn’t bother me because I’ve never had the pleasure of reading Brown’s work. Aveyard is a talented writer, and I found the book immensely entertaining, as is the world she creates. The Queenstrial as a means of finding a Queen for the King is archaic but enthralling; it’s like a Hunger Games + The Selection mash-up I never knew I needed. The last scene in which Mare is standing outside the castle with Cal, Maven, and an army is chilling, and progresses in a very unexpected way that, in some parts, were surprising and enthralling. And for some reason, the scenes in which Aveyard describes the world outside of the castle are some of the most memorable for me. The scene in which Mare is on a boat going down the river and the Reds are looking at her as if she’s a Silver actually brought chills to my skin. As for the plot twist, I wasn’t entirely surprised, but I most certainly did not trust the character at the head of it the entire book; my worst suspicions were just confirmed.
As for the characters, I think Mare is pretty normal for a YA heroine. I like her a little more than most because of her innate love for knowledge, which is something I connect to on a deeper level, but I don’t think she really understands the complex responsibilities she takes on as a fake Silver and a rebel. She’s all about morality, but seems she will do little to actually get her hands dirty. And surprise, surprise, we have more of a love square (if this makes sense?) than a triangle. First, we have Kilorn, her best friend from back home that is always implied to be a little more; Mare’s attempt to stop him from being drafted into the war is what starts the whole story, and he’s almost too loyal. Then, we have Cal, the eldest prince and first in line for throne, who is naturally betrothed to Mare’s arch enemy, but falls for Mare anyway. He is a serious, responsible, yet somehow still more relaxed and kind-hearted prince who falls for Mare even as she turns him away. Finally, we have Maven, the younger prince forced to become engaged to Mare, who is also a bit angsty in his brother’s shadow but convinces Mare he has a good heart underneath the coldness he initially shows her.
Some of the side characters, as usual, are the best. I have immense appreciation and sympathy for Julian, Mare’s tutor, who has lost so much in his life and still has so much more to lose that he risks in order to help her. I am almost impressed by Farley and the rest of the Red Guard, the rebellion against the Silver king who is power-hungry and continues to send Red slaves to fight his unnecessary wars. One of my friends suggested Farley is like Coin from Hunger Games, but I disagree; I think Farley honestly wants change and wants the people to have power again. She’s a rebellion leader I can support. The King and the Queen are SO despicable, it’s actually amazing how easily Aveyard got me to hate them, although I don’t despise Evangeline as much as most people do. Evangeline is a brat by both nature and nurture, and I almost feel sorry for her when Mare comes in to steal her spotlight. It’s kind of like Sharpay from High School Musical – she’s kind of technically supposed to be the villain, but you also feel bad that she’s been usurped at the one moment or one thing she thought was hers.
It was one of the easiest reads I’ve had in the last year because of Aveyard’s stellar writing, and I frequently recommend it for fans of YA “dystopian” novels, which I use in apostrophes because everyone’s definition of the word and genre is vastly different. North is an amazing world that I hope Aveyard delves more into in subsequent books, and the characters haven’t completely turned me away as of yet. I can’t wait to pick up The Glass Sword (book #2) and see where Aveyard takes me next!