Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Pages: 383
Year: 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.

Yes, I am still alive (But I’m barely breathing). I haven’t written a review in such a long time that you probably thought I had a really good excuse. Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t. I’m just a lazy betch. HOWEVER I have done a ton of reading lately. I read Red Queen back in September, so this is only the beginning. I have at least 5 more reviews headed your way. Eventually. Someday. Hopefully… Moving on.

I really, really enjoyed this book. So much so that I blew through it in a matter of hours which is something I haven’t done since I read the Hunger Games series for the first time. While there were many similarities between this book and every other dystopian novel in the world, I found this story line to be so compelling and fast-paced that I didn’t have time to stop and think about it until I was finished. One of my biggest complaints is that I found the world to be grossly underdeveloped and lacking in many areas. I would have liked to have had more background on the Red and Silver society and how it came to be. Hopefully this is something Aveyard will explain further as the story progresses.

I believe this book was marketed as “Graceling meets the Selection,” which I can kind of see… But I thought it was more X-Men meets Game of Thrones meets Hunger Games meets the Civil Rights Movement. (Is that a stretch? We’ll see.)

Meet the Lannisters; an elite, wealthy, powerful group of people with varying unique magical powers. Suffering from an acute superiority complex, the Silvers/Lannisters will do anything and everything to gain and keep their power. They treat the non-magical population as less than dirt, using them as free labor and military forces. To marry off their prince, Cal, they have a pageant in which a girl from each magical family showcases her powers to a live audience. The winner gets the prince and her family is given favor with the royals. (GOT meets The Bachelor?)  Arranged marriage is all fun and games until Mare, a Red girl, interrupts the pageant by essentially destroying the arena with her own magical power, electricity. This results in an uproar, not only because this is the first time electricity has emerged as a power, but because a Red has it. (Inconceivable!) Mare is just as shocked, but somehow A-okay with the fact that she has been harboring this previously dormant anomaly since birth. Moreover, she doesn’t stop to question how or why she has this power, why it is surfacing now, or if there is anyone else like her. However, I forgave her for being self-centered because home girl was more focused on getting the hell out of Silver town. Too bad her power was electricity, not escape artistry.

Mare is more or less unsure of herself, but she isn’t crippled by her own fear. She takes charge of her situation and stands up for what she believes in, no matter what the cost. Like Katniss Everdeen, she finds herself in a position of power and influence, but isn’t quite the leader we were hoping she would be. She wants the best for her people and tries to use her newfound power to help them, but ends up getting herself and the people around her in trouble instead. Mare is more of a take action now- think about it later type of gal, but she doesn’t always want to own up to those actions. When she and Maven plot to assassinate twelve silvers, she doesn’t hesitate to carry out the plan to the fullest extent. But afterwards she doesn’t want to know their names or anything about them. I don’t think you can plan to murder twelve people and then decide that you have a heart. I think that Aveyard was trying to show that Mare was remorseful or having some inner turmoil about her actions, but I didn’t feel like it was sincere. She was trying to justify her negative actions by telling herself that they were not really people, so it was okay. This theme of dehumanization is prevalent throughout the novel, whether it be in one form or another, and I found it to be unsettling.

Moving on to Maven, the Pariah. Maven was as predictable as “surprise villains” can be, and while it was blatantly obvious from his continuous pity party that he was going to end up betraying Mare, I still found myself hoping that he wouldn’t. I felt like I was waiting for it to happen and when it finally did, I was so disappointed in him. Maven had moments where he was so inherently good, flickers of remorse after his big betrayal. I felt that he would pull a double-agent move on his mother and save Mare after the fact. But it didn’t happen. I still have hope for Maven in later novels. I think he can still be saved. But for now, he’s in the dog house.

Cal, on the other hand, was not so obvious. We meet Prince Cal when he pulls an Aladdin and masquerades as a Red Citizen in the village Mare lives in. He seemed pretty vanilla for the most part, but there were definitely times when I wasn’t sure where his loyalties lied. One scene of his that I have to point out is this line:

Maven shakes his head. “He [Cal] will always choose you.”

I was so surprised by this sentence because Cal and Mare really didn’t spend that much time together. They had a lot of chemistry and you could cut the sexual tension with a knife, but would he choose her over his country? A country he has grown up fighting for and protecting? I thought long and hard about throwing this book across the room in protest of what I thought was about to happen. But I stretched for no reason. Cal emphatically rejects Mare’s proposal, which made me like him so much more.

Even though it was fantasy, I found this novel to be so current. Everyone loves a good underdog story, and what I loved the most about it was that Mare had been told that she was ordinary her entire life, and finds out that she is extraordinary. She is something that the Silvers never dreamed of, and they are scared of the unknown, what she might be, and what that would mean for them. This is a concept that has been prevalent throughout the history of the world, in which one group of people persecutes another for being different. This persecution is largely characterized by xenophobia, stereotyping, and fear of the unknown. Instead of accepting Mare, the Silvers kidnap and hide her from society. They don’t want her existence to upset the balance of the world they’ve always known. (Sound familiar?)

At the risk of sounding too political, I end this review with a simple call to action. Read this book and send me the next one!

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