The first part of a trilogy, Red Queen is the debut novel by Victoria Aveyard and although it’s predictable (to a point) it’s a page turner none-the-less. Think Harry Potter meets Divergent and the fool-proof combination of ‘ordinary teenage girl becomes extraordinary’.
Our protagonist is Mare Barrow and she is a common Red citizen (basically a muggle) and her overlords are the Silvers who are all born with different magical gifts. We’re talking superhero stuff here, like controlling the elements and superhuman strength – and they are total Voldemorts about it (yes, that’s a noun now). Mare is determined to avoid conscription to war and steals anything she can to keep her family fed.
In a twist of fate she steals from the wrong (or I guess right) guy and ends up marched to the royal family and is taken on board as a servant. Saved from going to war, she witnesses Queenstrial where influential Silvers offer their daughters in a display of power to impress the royals and win over Prince Cal as his new Princess.
Mare literally falls into the middle of it and discovers that although red blood flows through her veins – she has electric powers of her own. In order to keep her a secret following her very public lightening display, the royals make a deal with her: she must forsake her life and take on a new alias as a long-lost Silver noble. In return her family are saved from starvation, her brothers will return from war, and her best friend Kilorn will be saved from conscription.
Happy days, right? For her family, yes. But for her it’s a roller coaster of lies, manipulation and backstabbing as she discovers just how deeply corrupt the Silvers truly are.
Of course we have the mandatory love triangle and sometimes even love diamond which involves brothers Prince Cal and Prince Maven, Mare, and poor friend-zoned Kilorn. The romantic plot-line thankfully doesn’t completely drive the story but it definitely gives the author the chance to give serious depth to characters that readers might otherwise want to hate.
Aveyard has a knack for continually manipulating the reader’s attachment or loathing for the majority of the characters, and by the end of the novel you’ll discover the people you loved are a lot more flawed than you originally thought.
The setting is futuristic yet the style of the world is medieval. Sometimes this is hard to actually visualise and you imagine those cheesy ye olde days of yore themed restaurants where everyone is dressed in cloaks with armour yet there’s big screen TVs and sound systems everywhere. At the same time it gives a more credible tone for the crazy Silvers and their superpowers.
The age-old discrimination and blatant cruelty to different races (Reds vs Silvers) is very poignant and really drives the entire story. The Silvers are referred to as godly and are essentially egomaniacs, while the poor mere-mortal Reds are their servants and half-starved to death. The crucial part of this hierarchy is there are clearly far more Reds than there are Silvers. Yet the Reds are seen as dispensable, and are sent to fight the Silvers’ battle on the war front where they argue over land.
Mare is very much the Divergent of this story, she is the poster child of evolution and a serious threat to the Silvers’ rule. By the end of the book the reader really sees just how far the royals are willing to go to preserve their hold over the country and keep the Reds in their place.
Red Queen might be a mash-up of the classic YA futuristic dystopia but Aveyard has herself a hit with this first instalment in what is sure to be a hugely successful sci-fi saga.