Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard

Summary: Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood -- those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but a twist of fate leaders her to the royal palace itself where, in front of the king and all his nobles,she discovers and ability she didn't know she had.  Except...her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of the lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, her actions put into a motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart.

From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  This is not the first time Red Queen has graced this blog with its presence.  Elizabeth reviewed it several years ago (and luuurved it).  In fact, she has already reviewed the first three books in the series (you can read them here, here, and here if you don't want to wait for me and my two cents).  I completely missed the review when it came out, but thankfully we seem to have ended up on the same page.  Read on if you'd like to hear my thoughts...

Mare Darrow has Red blood, which means she'll spend her life in servitude, fighting and dying for the Silver elite.  When Mare picks the wrong pocket one evening, it sets in motion a series of events that will change everything.  Thrust into close proximity with the ruling class, Mare finds kindness in unexpected places and must decide who she can trust in a society where one wrong turn can lead to her death.   Aaaand, that's pretty much the book in the tiniest of nutshells.  The good news?  It's a pretty good nut.  But I'll get to that in a minute....

In some super-obvious ways, Red Queen bears a passing likeness to another book series I have been reading recently - Red Rising by Pierce Brown, which was published a year earlier.  The similarities are pretty hard to miss. First, there's the title (Red Rising vs Red Queen); then, the rhyming main characters (Darrow vs Mare Barrow); and finally, the color/class system (Red/Gold vs Red/Silver).  I'll admit this made me wary and worried I might just be getting carbon copy of another book but that didn't end up being the case.  Red Queen offers plenty of original material, but I'll let you discover the details for yourself.  Sufficed to say, they may look the same on the surface but there the similarities end.

Mare Darrow is a lot of things -- thief, sister, daughter, friend, princess, rebel -- but perfect isn't one of them.  Sometimes she makes the right call and other times she fails in epic fashion.  It wasn't all 'win' with her and that felt more authentic.  It was incredibly hard to tell friend from foe in this book, and that made it delightfully unpredictable.  Mare is torn between her feelings for two characters for much of the book...and so was I.  They were hard to pin down, but I found that I liked not knowing who to 'root' for and where Mare's affections might land.  Frankly, it was all rather delicious.

Red Queen moved on at a pretty good clip throughout and I was thoroughly enjoying myself thinking it was a toying with a 4-star rating, but the last 50 or so pages...well...Holy. Crap. Talk about white-knuckled reading!  I shushed my kids till I could shush them no more and finally just up and locked myself in the bedroom so I could read without interruption.  Of course my husband got home, wanting to change his clothes, when I was on the last two pages (why is it always the last two pages?) and he had to wait.  I wasn't unlocking that door till I read those final, heart-pounding final pages! 

Though it was never explicitly stated, there seemed to be little hints that the story itself was set in a ruined, future Earth, covered with crumbling, irradiated cities, built over long-forgotten transit systems. Even a few of the 'old' names were reminiscent of current metropolises. I can't be certain I'm correct, but I am interested to see how that plays out in future books. And speaking of future books...I am thrilled that I already have the next book Glass Sword sitting on my shelf.  I do believe I'll go start it right...now.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader: A few brief kisses and some violence.  No language that I can recall.

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