This was one of the best fantasy books I have read in a long time. I have only read the first book so far and I can say I was actually very surprised by the plot. For reference, there will be major spoilers in this article about this book.
At the beginning, Red Queen reminded me heavily of The Hunger Games. A dystopian society with a group of oppressed people who were forced into going to war through a draft process when they turned 18. The difference was that unlike The Hunger Games, in Red Queen, the people are divided by their blood type. The superior people of the society have silver blood while the inferior group has red. Automatically I thought this was an incredibly creative way to make the division of classes. The main character, Mare Barrow, is a red blood and therefore is in the lower class of society. Her brothers have been forced to go into war for the silvers and she is left at home with her talented younger sister, her mother and her father, who is physically disabled from the war. As Mare approaches her 18th birthday, she and her family dread her leaving for the war.
One night, Mare heads to the bars to pickpocket intoxicated passersby when the person she pickpockets turns out to be the prince of their country. Yet, she doesn’t notice it right away because he is dressed down, as if to seem of their class. However, the amount of money he has and his form of transportation foreshadows that he is more than he is leading on. After he meets her, he starts having a bit of a crush on the thief who almost robbed him and decides to get her job at the palace.
At her new job, she is surrounded by silvers. Here’s the catch, though: silvers are born with powers, not just silver blood. Some silvers can manipulate metal, fire, water and even people’s minds. Think of Avatar: The Last Airbender meets The Hunger Games.
These silvers are not nice people. They are condescending to their red servants and obviously see themselves as the superior people in society. So when one silver attacks Mare at the palace just for fun, Mare somehow shoots lightning?? This is where I was absolutely shocked. To be entirely honest, I thought that maybe she would end up falling for the prince (Cal) and marrying into the family to save her own, but instead she has powers, too. Which is unheard of, for a red to have a power.
As she shakes up their nation as the “little lightening girl,” the queen, king and both of the princes try to come up with solution to this seemingly act of deviance by a red in front of everyone. Obviously they cannot explain why a red has the powers of a silver, so they lie. They force Mare to marry the youngest prince, Maven, and give her a false backstory. The backstory is that she is actually a silver who was just adopted by reds.
From this point on they get married, and then they essentially rebel against the silvers because Maven claims that he understands the treatment reds face and knows that it is wrong. Mare falls for Maven eventually and they go on this little vigilante, activist, rebellion spree with the Scarlet Guard, who are the rebels of their nation.
This turns quickly when Maven turns out to be a traitor of the Scarlet Guard and was actually on the Queen’s side the whole time. He didn’t care about saving reds; he cared about overthrowing his older brother to steal the crown from him. This twist quite literally shook me to my core. I thought he genuinely cared for Mare. The thing that was most upsetting was that it was heavily foreshadowed that Maven was not all he seemed to be. But I thought that meant that maybe he was a little bit too loyal to his mother and would not want to abandon his family when the time came to overthrow them. I didn’t expect that he was lying the whole time and completely played Mare and Cal. I was so heartbroken.
I think the foreshadowing in this book was phenomenal, as well as the imagery of the impoverished neighborhoods, the war and the battle that Mare and Cal have to fight to escape Maven and the Queen’s wrath. This book was truly beautifully written and kept me invested the entire time. I truly felt that it was unpredictable and each of the characters’ personalities were so well thought-out and showcased by their actions. The books did leave a cliffhanger, which sets up the next book perfectly. I can’t wait to finish the series and see where Mare and Cal go from here. Overall, this book was fantastic and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a dark, dystopian, slightly romantic fantasy novel.