Monday, May 2, 2016

Red Queen

Red Queen
Victoria Aveyard
HarperCollins, 2015  288 pgs
Grades 7-Up
Red Queen Series vol. 1

Seventeen-Year-Old Mare lives in a society governed by blood color. Mare is a "Red" (human with red blood) and the lower form of society with no rights , freedoms, or money. The "Silvers", besides carrying silver blood, boast supernatural abilities that give them an advantage over the Reds and serve to keep them oppressed. The country has been at war for many years with Red soldiers being forced by the Silvers into military service to fight their war with a high risk of death. Mare meets a strange man who turns out to be a Silver prince undercover named Cal. Cal arranges for Mare to become a servant at the Silver castle where, after a potentially deadly encounter, Mare pulls lightning out of nowhere and saves herself. Unsure of what to do with her, the royal family claims Mare to be a lost Silver princess and betroths her to Cal's younger brother Maven. She and Maven become great friends and her feelings for her fiance grow, as she battles an attraction to Cal, as well as struggling with feelings for her hometown companion who is now a member of the rebel group the "Scarlet Guard". Maven and Mare share ideas about the unfairness of the current regime's government and make connections to help the Scarlet Guard. Meanwhile, Mare's training ensues, both in etiquette and in using her new found powers. Finally, an important ball is planned and Mare and Maven with the Scarlet Guard decide the time has come to make their move. The plan does not come off as hoped and chaos and loss of life ensues. Mare is forced to confront her decisions, all while finding out the true motivations of those she trusts the most. Mare has betrayed people, just as others have betrayed her. All of the feature players motivations are revealed by the stunning conclusion and a dramatic action sequence at the end leads us to the aftermath and the next title in the series: Glass Sword.

The desperation of The Hunger Games meets the glamour of The Selection in this dystopian bestseller for teens. Aveyard knows how to write for teenagers. The action never stops in this fully realized civilization, which serves as a reflection of our own past, substituting class distinction from the color of skin to the color of blood. Although the dystopic survival is not new, the setting and concept is and Aveyard offers a fresh take on the genre. The prerequisite love triangle is there, although stepped up allowing Mare to struggle between three suitors (turning it into a love square?). Mare and the rest of her friends and enemies are not particularly well developed, but its really not that kind of book, so it doesn't so much matter. Mare is brave and fearless (and probably stunningly beautiful judging from her number of suitors) and any readers will want to be her. What really sells this book is the plot. The story is finely crafted and charges along at a rollicking pace with major surprises lurking around every corner. There are many plot twists that will serve to keep even the most reluctant reader turning pages and it never drags or gets boring. The romantic elements are not overwhelming and Mare is a fierce character, so although this series will appeal more to girls, boys will like it too. It is almost impossible not to run and grab the second title in the series after reading the first. Red Queen is a sure-fire hit and will be enjoyed by both serious readers of fantasy and reluctant readers new to the genre. My only question is: when is the movie being released? 

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