Rating: 4 1/2 stars
“Red Queen” by Victoria Aveyard is about a world where humans have divided into two groups. One group has silver blood, special abilities and all the power. The other group has red blood, no special abilities and none of the power.
The Reds, as those with red blood are called, serve as the lower class. They are the workers, the soldiers, the poor. They have no hospitals, no freedom and no apparent possibility of improving their lives.. Mare grows up in a household with many sons, and she has one sister, Gisa. Gisa is a talented seamstress, and it’s her skill that will make her as successful as a Red can get.
When Mare’s best friend is conscripted, she will do anything to help him not go to war. The cost is horrendous. While Mare is a skilled pickpocket and thief, she cannot steal that amount of money from the Reds. So Gisa takes her to the Silver enclave, where Gisa works, where Mare can try to pocket more substantial stolen goods. When they must leave before Mare gets a chance to pick anyone’s pocket, Gisa makes an attempt. She is caught, and the punishment is to break the bones in her hand. Gisa will not be sewing anymore.
Mare accidentally meets the king’s son, and he gets her a job in the palace. There, she is found to have a special skill — the ability to control electricity — unheard of in Reds. To hide the fact that a Red has an ability, they make Mare a noble Silver who was recently discovered living among the Reds when her parents died.
In the meantime, a group of Reds wants a rebellion. They are called the Scarlet Guard and they are planning a revolution. The problem is that they don’t have any special abilities to use against the Silvers. With Mare in the palace, engaged to the younger prince, perhaps they now have a weapon against the cruelty and tyranny they are trying to overthrow. Aveyard has Mare give a speech to the Reds that was written by the Silvers. It’s a speech telling the downtrodden how well they are being treated by the Silvers (they are not). In it, Mare says that the Silvers, in their generosity, gave the Reds “the right to work.” (Interesting use of those words when currently, many politicians espouse the “right to work,” which really means the right to work for low pay and no rights. Just like in the book.)
The story is engaging from the first page. Mare is a character with depth. She’s far from perfect, but she is likable nonetheless. She loves her family and is loyal to her friends. And when she decides to do something, she dedicates herself to doing it right.
The twists and turns that the plot take are beautifully executed, and there’s a cliffhanger ending of sorts. Readers will be begging for the author to finish the second book in the series quickly.
A minor quibble is the overuse of the word “smirk.” Perhaps more of an editing lapse, “smirk” is used in “He smirks sadly at me…” and “…I can’t help but smirk with him.” There are many creative words to depict a smile; unfortunately “smirk” seems to be a popular one with many current authors.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by HarperTeen for review purposes.