Author: Victoria Aveyard
Mare Barrow lives in the Kingdom of Norta, where the population is divided by the colour of their blood. Those with silver blood rule over those with red. Every silver possesses a special ability to control or manipulate an element (such as light, water, or plant matter).
Although a red, Mare has a power akin to that of a silver. With a terrorist organisation on the rise and a growing disturbance among the reds, when Mare’s ability is exposed to the most elite silver dignitaries, the royal family must concoct a lie in order to keep the peace throughout the Kingdom. In order to live, Mare must embrace everything she despises and become a lost silver princess.
On the face of it, there is very little that sets Red Queen apart from the hoards of YA Dystopia released after the success of the Hunger Games. It starts like any other: a world is divided, with one group ruling over another. A girl, usually a tomboy and a rule-breaker, is thrust onto the public stage and used as a pawn by the elite to control the masses of disgruntled subordinates. She is ～different～ from the others in her society, whether it be through her thoughts or her abilities, and this makes her dangerous to those in power. In order to highlight this girl’s multitude of personality faults, the author chucks in a treasured younger sister, who is feminine and everything-she-is-not.
When I started Red Queen, I was sure that I had probably read the entire story before, in the form of the Selection, the Hunger Games, and Divergent. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was something that separated Red Queen from the others: the abilities of the silvers adds a unique fantasy twist to the dystopia. Aveyard creates a somewhat magical world by creating beings such as Nymphs, Telkies, and Strongarms. The silvers provide a strong injection of originality into what would otherwise be a book full of overused tropes and clichés.
Although I felt that the main plot was somewhat unoriginal (an uprising in an oppressive, segregated state), the silvers help to provide another interesting side-story. When Mare first encounters them, she comments on how bored they appear while using their ‘magic’: they have habituated to the abilities which enthral the reader. However, when Mare discovers her power, it piques a vast amount of interest among the silvers, as the likes of her power have never been seen before. The array of emotions that this discovery generates is vast, ranging from jealousy to curiosity. As a reader, it is intriguing to be able to see the silvers’ personalities and intentions, and how this affects their behaviour towards Mare.
Aveyard does a superb job at portraying characters’ personalities. Her character writing is engaging, yet not too exaggerated. The villains, in particular, are very well written, some well enough to make your skin crawl. There is a certain scene (which I won’t go in to) where a character actually made me feel nauseous through the description of their actions. The ability to conjure emotions like that purely through writing is something to aspire to.
However, the one character I couldn’t truly understand with was Mare herself: I found myself unable to comprehend a lot of her actions and feelings. I think when a character is written as emotionally closed-off, it can impact on the reader’s ability to connect with them. This didn’t lead me to hate Mare’s character, but instead I felt indifference towards her, one of the worst emotions a reader can have concerning a character.
Overall, the book was well paced and well written. I found the writing to be accessible, but not patronising, which can be a difficult balance to strike. Although I was not captivated by the main plot itself, I found myself fascinated by the side stories and characters of the book. Aveyard does a wonderful job at creating the fantasy world that is the Kingdom of Norta, the characters that live within its borders, and the relationships between them.