Review: Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Published: February 10th 2015 by HarperTeen
 Rating: *6 out of 5
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This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.


I think it's pretty safe to say this is probably the best book I have read in a while. Maybe a few years. If you like good v evil, rich v poor, royals v servants and general poor people, a poor girl who rises quickly to possibly destroy a kingdom, all of those - well, this book is for you.

I'm not going to say it's mostly, completely original. However, the following can safely be said. The world created by Aveyard is tremendous. There isn't a character in this book that doesn't have a place in this story. Everyone plays a part somehow, and it isn't until you reach the very, very end that you can decide who the good guys are and who the baddies/evil ones are.

In the beginning, it's First Friday, a national day that every Red has to visit their local arena and see the might of the fighting Silvers. A gladiator combat battle, if you will. These take place so that news reports can be distributed to the poor Reds, and they can fear the Silvers and their mighty supernatural powers all the more.

Red and Silver is the colour of the blood. The Reds are the underlings. The Silvers are the ruling class. Their blood is silver, they bleed silver. The royal family and all the governors, councillors, people of power are Silvers. They rule over the Reds, keeping them firmly down the ladder of life. They tell each other reds are rats, reds have no worth, reds deserve their fate.

Mare Barrow lives in the Stilts, with her Mum, her Dad, who is disfigured and one legged from fighting in the war, and her younger sister, Gisa. Gisa is talented. She can sew beautifully with silk and jewels. Her work is so liked that Silvers buy it when she visits the Grand Garden in the Summerton Palace. Mare, on the other hand, is a thief. It's the only way she can help her family survive. She picks pockets and sells what she can to Will Whistle, a travelling tradesman, who doesn't question her source.

Mare's best friend is Kilorn, an apprenticed fisher boy. Mare knows her days are numbered and soon her conscription papers will arrive to go to the front line of a war that has been fought for the last hundred years. Kilorn won't go because he has a job. Until his master dies suddenly. Mare can't bear the thought of Kilorn going to the front. She hears such terrible stories from her brother, Shade, who is fighting along with her other two brothers. She visits Will, knowing he trades on the black market, and asks for safe passage for two 'Red' passengers. She only gets an agreement when she meets Farley, a rebel leader of the Scarlet Guard. Farley agrees to take them for an extortionate amount of money. Still, Mare is resourceful. She knows if Gisa takes her into the Silvers Grand Garden she can pick a few pockets. Nothing goes to plan. Mare and Gisa arrive just as a riot is starting. Silvers begin to bully, round-up and kill Reds after a TV broadcast by the Scarlet Guard. Mare is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She manages to escape but not before her sister's hand gets obliterated by an overzealous guard.

On the way home, Mare walks past a tavern on the outskirts of her village. Drunkards make easy pickings and she makes a good sum of money, until she picks the pocket of a smart young man. He's different, speaks different. He introduces himself as Cal and walks her home. Before she can help herself Mare opens up her heart and tells him everything

. The next day she is summoned to the palace. Not only did 'Cal' give her more money than she could dream of before he left her the night before, he also got her a job as a palace servant. But with hours of her being there, she gets accidentally knocked over the side of the balcony and saves herself using a web of lightening she had no idea she had. She's got Red blood but Silver abilities. Straight away she gets taken inside, away from anyone who could see. She realises the person who has stayed with her is Cal. He's also the Crown Prince, and a Silver himself.

In an extraordinary twist of fate, Mare finds herself in front of the King. She's unable to explain how she has her powers but with immediate effect she's given a new identity. She must pretend she's Silver, forget her past, and she must marry the younger prince. Not Cal. His brother, Maven for her own safety. No one in the palace has ever seen a red with Silver abilities and the royal family are afraid of what the other High Silvers would do to Mare.

She begins her new life, rarely sees Cal and begins learning history and training her abilities. No one is kind to her except Maven. Cal is, to a degree, but he has his own betrothed in Evangeline, who won the Queenstrial, the competition Mare was working at.

Royal intrigue, twists of fate, backstabbing, deception and the repeated addage Trust no one. With all this going on now, Mare has to watch her every step, keep her mouth shut, and learn who her enemies are. Because there are many that want her dead.

Red Queen is a terrific example of a well thought out, fast paced, escape novel. Not only does the country, cities, villages and palaces take us on a journey, but the newness and oldness of everything from the architecture to the modern gadgets makes this world believable. If the US were advanced 200 years I could quite well believe this book was based there. As I wrote earlier, every character has a purpose and a place, nothing is left to chance, and the terrain always changes.

The supernatural abilities of the Silvers are also well thought out. Mare can control lightening and electricity. Cal and Maven follow their father, the King's ability, of using fire. Maven's mother, the Queen, is a whisper - she can see into your mind. Mare's tutor, Julian is a Singer, he can manipulate you to do things at his will. Others are Magnetrons, who can use metal, Oblivions, who can destroy objects and so on. But Mare learns something unique. Silvers can only use their gifts with the aid of a bracelet or something to draw the gift out. Mare's comes naturally. She can draw lightening from nothing. She now has the advantage.

The Scarlet Guard is an intriguing sidestep into the rebellion which has deep pockets, and which every Silver is scared of. They are able to get their hands on supplies from other parts of the nation and adjoining countries. When they approach Mare and Maven to help, both say yes.

As for the romance, clearly Cal was introduced first for a reason, but it is Maven who Mare gets sided with and together they wind their way though the workings of the palace court, and into the depths of the Scarlet Guard. Only, one of them is lying - about everything.

Mare is a likeable character. While all Silvers have their own opinion on the reds, Mare has been brought up a Red and has been brought up to hate the Silvers. She didn't have a choice when she was made Maven's fiancée, but she uses her hatred of the Silvers to work with the Scarlet Guard, and also for her own ends. She doesn't forget her beginnings, although the Royal family all want her to. She thinks of her family all the time, and does what she can to help them.

Altogether, Red Queen is a brilliant first novel of a series I'm expecting to enjoy. With the ending as volatile as it was, Mare must now set her sights on a new path, to discover new Newbloods like herself. She has to find them before Maven does. And the journey will be most difficult in the pit of vipers she must now calls her allies.

About the Author

Victoria Aveyard graduated from USC, where she majored in screenwriting. RED QUEEN is her first novel. She splits her time between Massachusetts and Los Angeles.

You can find Victoria Aveyard here:


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