Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
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This is it. My penultimate Cannonball read. Last year I only made it a little over halfway, and this year…well, I’m almost there. I’ve been trying to select my last few books carefully, wanting to go out on a bang (I mean, I’m going to keep reading and reviewing after I hit 52, but come on. #52 has to be special.) Red Queen is a title I’ve seen kicking around lately and I’m a sucker for books like this. YA, female protagonist, magic, class warfare, dystopian. This checks off quite a few boxes. The only problem is, I’m now pissed off I have to wait for the next volume.
Aveyard is not breaking any new ground here. This is a Chosen One book, the one in this case being Mare Barrow (yeah, I kinda hated the name, too), a teenage girl who struggles to help her family make ends meat by picking pockets and committing other acts of small time thievery. Her three older brothers have been conscripting to fight a war that’s been happening for hundreds of years, with no sign of it ending. Her future is going to hold the same if she can’t find someone to take give her an apprenticeship or job. See, she’s a red-blooded girl and, in this world, that makes her a nothing. Disposable. Just another boring human.
The nobility have silver blood. There’s no background on the evolution of this, I’m not clear on if this is some version of America, or another world altogether. Silver-bloods have all the status and money and power. They also have magic. There are a dozen or more noble families, each with their own distinct abilities. There is a royal family, who heads it all up, and has the power to harness flame. Thanks to picking the wrong (or right) pocket, Mare is given a job in the royal court as a servant and a series of events lead to the discovery that she has some powers of her own. A red-blood with magic is unheard of and she’s forced into hiding in, pretending to be the long-lost daughter of a dead noble and further betrothed to the younger prince, Maven.
That’s the basics. Aveyard does it well, though. She takes the Chosen One format, the girl with secret powers, the love
triangle quadrangle, the family tragedy, the uprising of a group of rebels who want to take back their country and folds it into a really compelling story. This being the first book of a series, there is the usual amount of set up and world building, but there’s also a lot of action and development. I can see places where Aveyard has borrowed from other authors a little, but she does a lot to really make this world her own. The characters are fresh and well-written, and there are some really great twists that took me by surprise. It all ends in a good set up for the next volume, Glass Sword, which is out next February. If this kind of YA or fantasy book is something you usually enjoy, I’d reckon this is one you should check out.