One of the new 2015 YA books you’ve likely heard some reviewer or publisher raving about, can be a quickly addicting fantasy.
Just announced as of June 11th, this book will be a film directed by Elizabeth Banks!
In a war-ravaged country on the brink of a societal revolution, where Red blood means a life of servitude and/or enslavement to the elite Silvers with their inbred elemental gifts and Red lives fuel the campaign against neighboring enemies, Mare Barrow faces a certain destiny of becoming a solider like her brothers before her. In an attempt to be useful as something other than a body to die on a battlefield, Mare thieves what she can for a measly income for her family and orphaned friend, Kilorn. When Kilorn’s apprenticeship falls through, he faces a short life in the army too, something Mare can’t bear as she’s been taking care of him since they were young. Making a deal with some local rebels to spirit him away, Mare must come up with an astronomical amount of money, enough that would supply her family for a year. She enlists the help of her younger sister, Gisa, who is a talented apprentice for embroidery, much valued by the Silver ladies and who will one day have her own business, enough to set their family out of the lowest levels of poverty. With Gisa’s assistance, Mare can steal directly from the Silvers to obtain enough for Kilorn. Just as she is about to sneak away with her booty, news comes of a Red attack on the Silvers and it becomes a riot. Gisa’s hand is broken, and Mare has lost her only chance to save both her family and Kilorn. Hurt and raw with humilation, anger, and a desire for revenge with a devil-may-care attitude, she tries to steal whatever she can, running into a handsome and merciful stranger at a local pub. The next morning she is summoned to be a servant to the Silvers at the Queenstrial, an event where all noble female Silvers of a certain age compete for the Prince’s hand in marriage by displaying their elemental gifts to the full advantage. Just as the current favorite, Evangeline, is displaying her talent with metal and pulling the arena apart, Mare is thrown from her balcony onto the shield of lightning protecting the spectators from the competition. Facing certain death,by electrocution Mare is more than lucky to be unscathed from her fall until Evangeline attacks her. With only her hands as defense against Evangeline’s metal shards, she cowers and shockingly reveals a gift for lightning element as the metal shards are incinerated. To cover up the gross error that is a Red having Silver powers and to hedge himself against the growing Red rebellion, the King announces Mare is really Mareena, an orphaned noble Silver who has been raised by Reds, and will marry his second son, Prince Maven. Now Mare doesn’t even seem to know herself or her new role. She becomes embroiled in a plot to overthrow the Silvers while still learning of her own gifts, something only they can teach her. Though possessing legitimate ties to both sides of the conflict, Mare must decide for herself who is right, the Reds or the Silvers, and live accordingly, even if her choices lead to disastrous consequences for all…
So, to get this out of my system, one of the most frustrating things I found with this book was the jarring references to current technologies (elevators, etc.) in a world I was practically picturing as a medieval fantasy. It’s very possible it is more of a science fiction/fantasy/dystopian meld than borrowing from contemporary technological advances. In any case, the setting was just hard to ground and get a feel for, as well as the backstory. I really hope more of this will be clarified in further books. This allusion to anachromism and the almost predictable outcome of Mare and Maven were the only two negative things I came across, really. The set up of the society was intriguing with the Reds and Silvers: their blood, powers, and gap from wealthy to poor. Loved the descriptions of the Silvers’ powers and their fights. It read almost like a video game or comic book, like you were able to get a very vivid picture with the just words of all the action occurring. There were a few surprising twists towards the end, and it actually became more dystopian. In characters, Mare is believable, determined, and able to learn from her mistakes. I preferred Cal from the very beginning, and was very suspicious of Maven and the Queen. I never liked Kilorn, as he is more of a re-imagined Gale. Also, Red Queen had an adventurous Hunger Games feel like when Katniss is being evacuated from the second arena to District 13 as the action ramps up and Mare is running for her life. I can’t wait for the second book! When reading up on when the next book would come out, I noticed a fan reference a “Red Queen” theory, which Victoria Aveyard hinted that this had a very real connection to her story. Not sure how she will borrow from this reference, but I’m intrigued to discover it. I thought Red Queen would have more to do with her blood and her actually becoming queen, so I was delighted to be wrong! Totally worth it to check this book out, especially since it will become a movie at some point!
Note: I will be leaving for San Francisco this weekend to attend ALA Annual! Am super pumped to be meeting some fabulous authors (Rae Carson! Leigh Bardugo! Marissa Meyer! Scott Westerfeld! and more!) and hope to have much to gush about when I return! Expect that note at some point in July, but not for the first week or so!