In a world divided by colour of blood, 17 year old Mare Barrow is a professional pickpocket, and a Red. She fears her 18th birthday and her conscription into the century old war, fears for her three brothers’ lives who went to battle before her, and fears for parents. Their one hope for a fairly safe life is their youngest daughter, Gisa, a talented embroiderer.
The Reds are impoverished slaves to the Silvers, who rule over them with their supernatural powers. Whether it be power over the earth, over metal, over water, or even incredible strength, the Silver live in unbelievable luxury, while the Reds starve.
After a chance meeting with a Silver, Mare is hired to work in the Palace, saving herself from conscription, but putting herself at the Silvers’ mercy. Or lack thereof. Until Mare discovers, against all odds and in spite of her Red blood, that she possess abilities greater than those of the Silvers. Her mere presence could change the balance of power.
Let’s get this out of the way. You know I can’t help it. WHAT A FANTASTIC COVER!
Ok. Moving on. The main characters – Mare, Cal, and Maven – were inconsistent. But that does not take away from their story. In fact, I think it was why I warmed to Mare, specifically. She has lived a life of poverty and fear, does not trust easily, and without preparation, is offered everything. But everything can also be taken away on a whim. She is constantly off balance, has no idea whom to turn to or trust, and that includes her own instincts. Her biggest fault is her inability to commit, either to a friendship or an ideal. She believes she does, but waffles back and forth with her decisions, unable to totally accept the consequences.
Princes Cal and Maven are alternately brothers and foes. They love and mistrust each other at the same time, are each others’ best allies and yet, underneath it all, rivals. And a not-really-love-triangle with brothers? I’m pretty sure that’s an off-limits competition. Oh, and gross.
The other characters were a bit hit and miss. Farley, Kilorn, Gisa, Evangeline, Lucas and Julian, were, I felt, underdeveloped and a bit forgettable. Hopefully they will be more fully addressed in the coming sequel.
I did not find the plot to be anything earth shatteringly new, but it is good. Fast paced, action packed, electric (no pun intended); the scenes fly by, leaving small clues and cliffhangers throughout.
The world building is underdone, but, like the secondary characters, hopefully will be fleshed out in Glass Sword. The radiated area has been done (hello, District 13), and it feels unnecessary to the story. The abandoned subway tunnels would have been sufficient headquarters for the Red Guard. Mare’s home village of Stilts, the Silvers’ city Summerton, the Hall of the Sun, Archeon, Gray Town – all have the potential to be incredible backdrops, but are never quite thoroughly drawn.
I will smugly say I figured out the bad guy pretty quickly. In the interest of honesty, however, that was more luck and wishful thinking than actually knowing definitively. Victoria Aveyard does a good job of keeping you on your toes, and changing your mind with each page turned.
For all my nitpicking, Red Queen is a total page turner, a lot of fun to read, and I really had trouble putting it down! It is appropriate for any age; although there is some violence and gore, it is not graphic.
Red Queen was published February 10th 2015 by HarperTeen.