Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Averyard
Review: “Red Queen” is a young adult fantasy novel by Victoria Aveyard which follows how seventeen-year-old Mare Barrow’s discovery that she, a peasant-born Red, has the special powers of the elite ruling Silvers and changes the course of her country’s future. When the novel begins, Mare is a lowly peasant pickpocket of the Red-blooded class in the country of Norta. The Reds carry out most of the dirty work of the world, ruled over by elite Silver-blooded humans with special powers and ability. Mare hates the Silvers.
Mare and her family, like most Reds, barely manage to scrape by. Her three brothers are off at war. Her sister Gisa is apprenticed to a seamstress and is the primary source of income for the family. Mare assists with money earned from pickpocketed items. Her father is a heavily-disabled war veteran. Mare’s best friend, Kilorn, is nearing the age of conscription when he must go off to fight. This breaks Mare’s heart. Mare, herself having been arrested numerous times for petty crimes, knows her fate will soon be the frontlines as well. She decides to meet with Will Whistle, a member of the underground black market to see if he can offer help.
Will introduces Mare to Farley, the leader of an underground group called the Scarlet Guard. Farley says she will help Mare and Kilorn escape conscription, ferreting them away to safety, for the price of two thousand Crowns. Mare has limited time to obtain the money. She accompanies her sister Gisa to work in Summerton, where the Silver royals and elites hold their summer court, intending to land a big score. However, a terrorist attack back in the country’s capital puts Summerton on edge, and Reds are rounded up across Summerton. Gisa is caught attempting to pickpocket and has her hand crushed in punishment. She can no longer work as a result. Unable to face her family, Mare does not go home right away.
She ends up near a pub, where a man of about nineteen or twenty named Cal—evidently wealthy by his clothing and manners—speaks to her. Cal feels badly for Mar and promises to do what he can to help her. Soon after, Mare is stunned to learn that she has been taken on to work in the Royal Household. She is also amazed to see the Royal Family in the palace. There is King Tiberias the Sixth; his second wife, Queen Elara; their youngest son Prince Maven; and the eldest son and heir to the throne from Tiberias’s first marriage, Cal (who will become Tiberias the Seventh upon assuming the throne).
The Queenstrial gets underway at the palace, where girls from the most elite Silver families, from the age of fourteen and up, compete in a demonstration of their power to win the hands of the princes in marriage. The most powerful girl is Evangeline, from the House of Samos. She has the tremendous power of controlling, reshaping, and manipulating metals. She uses this power to shake the viewing boxes of the attending Silver families and the Red servants, causing Mare to fall. As Mare falls, she emits a massive shield of lightning which protects her. She is instantly seized and brought before the Royals.
The king and queen do not know what to make of a Red with Silver powers. A cover story is decided upon, where Mare will portray the orphan daughter of a slain war hero, raised in poverty by a Red. In exchange, Mare’s brothers will be brought home from the war, and her family will be take care of. Mare reluctantly agrees. It is then announced that Mare will marry Prince Maven, while Evangeline will marry Prince Cal.
Mare is in disbelief. She has hated the Silvers for so long that she cannot imagine living among them. She is put into a strict schedule of learning how to be a lady, and how to wield her power. She begins meeting with Julian, brother of the dead queen, who recognizes Mare is something different, though he doesn’t know exactly what. He tells her that not all Silvers are bad, and warns her that anyone can betray anyone. As time passes, Mare develops romantic feelings for Cal and for Maven, though she tries to keep hating them. She ultimately comes to join the Scarlet Guard in order to make things right for the Reds and to end the ongoing war. Surprisingly, Maven joins her, telling her that it is time for change.
Mare and Maven agree to become part of a coup to seize the king and force reforms. Mare attempts to use Cal’s feelings for her to get him to turn against his father, but he will not do so. He orders troops after the Scarlet Guard instead. Cal’s troops capture Mare and Maven, and bring them before the king and queen. The king says that both must be killed, but the queen will not allow this. She uses her powers to force Cal to kill his own father. Maven reveals himself as a traitor, having used Mare to help him destroy the Scarlet Guard and become king on his own. Mare and Cal are then sentenced to death, but manage to escape when they are aided by the Scarlet Guard. As the novel ends, Mare vows to kill Maven.
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Kindle Edition: amazon.co.uk