Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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This is a world where the color of a person’s blood determines who they are and what they do. Those with silverblood have power, in the political and supernatural sense. Those who bleed red are normal. They are the lower class workers and soldiers. Life is hard, but uncomplicated for the Reds; they must find work before they turn 18. If they cannot (which many can’t), they will be drafted conscripted into the Nortan army, where they will likely die on the front lines.

Mare Barrow is a Red who’s about to turn 18. She’s a pickpocket, which isn’t exactly considered legitimate work. But when she pickpockets the right person, she finds herself summoned to work at the palace, effectively taking her out of the running for conscription. In an accident, it’s revealed that Mare has powers. The King forces her to pose as a lost heiress to a Silver High House and uses her as a tool to quell the growing unrest among the Reds.

Just to get the inevitable discussion about the love-triangle out of the way, Maven and Mare should work so much better than Cal and Mare. Maven is kind, and believes in the same things Mare does, and he supports and protects her as she’s learning to navigate this new life. Cal is busy studying battle tactics and training and, oh yeah, spending time with his actual fiancee. But the chemistry between Cal and Mare is so much stronger. Which is something I’m sure Maven is used to; being overlooked in favor of his brother for something intangible like chemistry or charisma. And while I’m on the subject, don’t get me started on the upcoming Kilorn drama. We can ask Gale and Peeta how that one’s going to turn out.

Mare is self-centered. She makes some poor attempt to help a once-scrawny boy turned best friend who she can’t seem to get rid of and who obviously doesn’t want to be saved in an effort to help her conscious. Golly gee, can’t wait for the oncoming boy next door triangle. Her self-centeredness ruins her sister’s career; her need to save herself results in the hunting-down and the execution of her friends; her belief that the Prince is so in love with her destroys Scarlet Guard’s plans for a coup. She shows no development and never stops to take a look at herself, choosing instead to think about how awful the snakes she’s being forced to live with are.

What becomes increasingly clear to me as this story continues is that Mare is an expendable piece in the cog that is this ‘rebellion’. If you can call it that. Because at some point, the Scarlet Guard is going to have to take a look at whether or not the ends justify their means right now. Yes, there are people with rights who need to be fought for. But the Scarlet Gaurd isn’t so much fighting as playing God. They are choosing the Silvers who live and die. They are letting their actions result in the deaths of innocent civilians. Now they need to ask if it’s worth it to them.

But Mare is replaceable. The only thing that makes Mare noteworthy in this novel is that she can’t be shuffled off and killed quietly because hundreds, if not thousands, of Silvers saw her powers. In order to maintain the fragile facade that the Silvers are strongest because of their gifts, the King forces Mare to pretend to be a long-lost heiress of a Silver House. If it had been any other Red, they would be where Mare was. If any other Red were in this position, the Scarlet Guard would have sought them out and asked for their help. We find out there are hundreds of others who are Red and Silver, and for some reason, we’re stuck with whiny, self-centered, hard-to-swallow Mare Barrow.

A lot of the problems with fleshing out these characters is that there isn’t any time to do so. There’s a lot of description of what’s going on, and not a lot about who is doing what and why they’re doing it. Part of this comes from it being a debut novel. Aveyard has yet to find a strong voice and a distinctive style. Events of the book are relayed to other characters, and the events themselves become meaningless in the retelling.

But don’t get me wrong. This book was fun. There was definitely a lot of action, and I am always a sucker for a book about any kind of royalty. The plot twist, though predictable, was at least understandable. You can’t treat a person so horribly for their entire life, constantly overlooking them and patronizing them, and expect them to be okay with it. Like I said, Red Queen is a fun ride, just not a particularly good book.

 

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