(Photo by Carla Rennick)
Summary (from goodreads.com): This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.
The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.
That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.
Let me start by listing the things I loved about this book:
- Political intrigue
- Class struggle
- Rebellion (the life-and-death kind, not the staying-out-past-curfew kind)
- Military strategy
- Crazy fashions
- Oedipus complex
- Am I the only one who saw bits of Hamlet?
- Arena fighting (magic gladiators?)
- There’s so much more, but I’m trying not to be too spoilery!
Okay, now the characters. Mare is a great protagonist. She’s snarky, but in a self-deprecating way. She’s resilient, creative, stubborn, and like most people, she has a strong sense of right and wrong, which she has to tweak as she learns more about the world. She loves her family, but her relationship with them isn’t perfect. Also—and this might just be me—whenever she uses her ability, I picture her as the Emperor from Return of the Jedi (but, you know, not old and creepy). The supporting characters are just as intriguing and three-dimensional, each with their own complexities and motivations. The love interests all have their pros and cons, and while Mare is subject to the same cocktail of hormones and emotions as any other teenage girl, she does her best to make logical, objective decisions. I also appreciate that her romantic situation is more of a complication than a main plot point, but of course we’ll see how that develops throughout the subsequent books in the series.
Besides the characters, another of my favorite things about Red Queen is that there are so many wonderfully visual aspects to it. The red blood versus silver blood thing, obviously; the vivid colors of the noble houses; the violent and fantastical fight scenes; the variety of settings—metropolis, slums, the Stilts, the river, forests, gardens, etc.; the way the building structures literally shift like Transformer pieces; the sparkling glass and the shining metal armor. I can’t wait to see this adapted into a movie (which I understand is in the works), but it does bring up the question of casting. While reading Red Queen, I didn’t notice very much emphasis on skin tone other than the difference between the pallor of the Silvers and the flush of the Reds. (I will admit that one of my weaknesses as a reader is my limited ability to fully visualize characters in my head.) Upon further review, I found that two so far minor characters, Ara “the Panther” Iral and her granddaughter Sonya, are specifically described as having a “coffee-colored” complexion (pg. 123, paperback edition). However, Aveyard has discussed the racial landscape of the Red Queen world, and it seems that racial diversity is both prevalent and, in this future, a nonissue:
“Being set so far in the future, particularly a future where the divisions of race aren’t really a social construct anymore, it would be almost impossible to realistically have an all-white cast.”
Of course, the big division is between blood color, so we still get a struggle reflective of current issues in society while allowing for representation of many and diverse people of color. I think this would be great to see played out on the big screen, and I hope the film’s creators will take great care with it. I also look forward to further explicit representation of POC in Glass Sword and beyond, as I understand is the case.
Overall, this book was delightful, exciting, and thoughtful. Reminiscent of The Hunger Games in its political scope, Red Queen thrusts readers straight into the middle of the ruling class and asks us whose life is worth risking in order to fight its oppression. It also begs the question of what crosses the line from political protest to terrorism, another highly relevant issue in the world today. I am excited to read the follow-up books and to meet Victoria Aveyard in Charleston this November.
Favorite line: “This world is Silver, but it is also gray. There is no black-and-white.”
Victoria Aveyard quote from victoriaaveyard.com