The Red Queen, a fantasy novel written by talented Victoria Aveyard surrounds the life of a girl who, in a sense, goes from rags to riches. In this book, Aveyard creates a world where your life–social status, occupation, freedom, etcetera–is determined by the color of your blood. The red-blooded were commoners, destined to serve the silver elites, who possessed supernatural abilities.
Seventeen years-old Mare Barrow is born into a typical poverty-stricken Red family in the small village of Stilts. Bounded by strict laws, jobless Reds who reached the age of eighteen were conscripted into the army. When Mare’s best friend– who recently turned eighteen–lost his job, Mare is determined to find a way to save him from his dreaded fate. She risks everything to help him, even going as far as negotiating with a dealer from the black market. Introduced to someone who offers to help both of them escape conscription, Mare has to pay an expensive price, one that she could not afford. After a failed attempt to pickpocket from silvers, the young Barrow meets a “wealthy commoner” (she tried to pickpocket from him too) who recently came out of a bar. The man listened to her story and comforted her with reassurances and even money. Little did she know that the person she met was far from a commoner, but the Silver prince next in line for the throne.
The very next day, Mare is summoned to the Silver Palace of Summerton to serve for the king. During her first service at the Queenstrial (an event where girls ages fourteen and above from wealthy silver families competed against each other for the hands of the two silver princes), Mare makes a shocking discovery that changed her life forever. She realizes how she possessed the deadly powers, despite the fact of how she had red blood. To avoid breaking the fragile balance of power, the King and Queen disguises Mare as the long lost daughter of a dead military general and forces her to marry their youngest son, Maven. Despite being under close scrutiny, Mare joins the Scarlet Guard, whose main goals were to bring down the silver reign. Entering a world of lies and betrayals, Mare is faced with impossible decisions, shocking discoveries, and heart-wrenching losses. The story takes place in Norta, a heavily-wooded country made up of a multitude of kingdoms.
The country of Norta is at war with the Lakelands and had been for almost a hundred years. Its capital is called Archeon, which also holds the residence of nobles and the royal family. The impoverish village of Stilts, previous home to Mare, was mentioned many times. It is located along the banks of Capitol River and is close to the rich city of Summerton. Summerton is a small city that is visited by the King and his family during the summer. It is surrounded by a sturdy wall of diamond-glass (a combination of diamond and other materials strong enough to resist a bomb) and is usually streaming with nobles and merchants during this time. Its palace is known as the Hall of the Sun. Summerton is where the majority of the story takes place in.
Mare Molly Barrow is a Red-born who, due to a mutation, possesses the power to harness and create electricity. Forced to live among silver elites, she posed as Mareena Titanos, the long-lost daughter of Ethan Titanos (a well-known general who died in the war against the Lakelanders). Mare had a bold personality and was not afraid to express her opinions and to speak her thoughts aloud.
Joining the Scarlet Guard, she helped the organization fight for red freedom. Tiberias Calore VII, otherwise known as “Cal”, is the son of King Tiberias Calore VI and the deceased Queen Coriane Jacos. As the eldest son of King Tiberias Vi, he is heir to the throne of Norta.
Cal was also the “commoner” who Mare tried to pickpocket from. Instead of arresting her for breaking a law, he gives her two tetrarchs (a form of currency) and gives her a job as a servant in the Hall of the Sun. Another character in this book is Maven Calore, Cal’s brother. Prince Maven is also the son of King Tiberias the sixth, but his mother, Queen Elara, is the current queen of Norta. Maven, like his brother is a burner with the power to manipulate,not create, fire. The character Kilorn Warren is Red and an orphan of the war. His father died as a soldier and his mother abandoned him soon after. As a kid, Kilorn would pick fights with Mare.
They eventually befriended each other and became the best of friends. Kilorn was a fisherman’s apprentice, but was threatened with conscription after the death of his master.There were two major conflicts in the story.
One of them was the struggle of keeping Mare’s identity a secret. If the crowd discovers the falsity of Mareena Titanos, a conflict would immediately arise from both the silvers. If the silvers knew that a “lowly” red had the same powers (or even stronger powers) than them, they would be in panic and some even enraged. Another conflict was Mare trying to keep her involvement in the Scarlet Guard a secret and the threat of the Scarlet Guard to the silver monarchy.
The organization had been a big thorn in the silvers’ perfect lives and were called “terrorists” by many due to their attacks on silver property. Mare struggled to hide her involvement in this group because the silver royalty were trying to eliminate its members. In a failed attack from the Scarlet Guard, some of its members were captured and faced a violent interrogation. To prevent the leak of the plans and information on the rebellious organization, Mare has to figure out a way to rescue the prisoners and to help them escape the royal palace.
To do so, she had to get help from her mentor, Julian, who could control minds. In the end, the prisoners were able to escape and Mare’s secret was safe.Towards the end of the book, the Scarlet Guard planned a final rebellion on the capital of Norta in hopes of destroying the silvers by eliminating their government. In order for the plan to be a success, they needed to trust Mare’s claim of how Prince Cal would always choose her safety before anything else. Their claim proved to be wrong and Mare and Maven (who was also believed to be a member of the Scarlet Guard) were captured and brought to the king. Then a series of events, including a major betrayal by Maven and the death of the king, resulted in Mare and Cal being accused of treason. Their punishment was to be taken to the Bowl of Bones, an arena used for silvers who had committed treason. With their last ounces of strength, Mare and Cal fought their way through their opponents and ended up victorious.
Enraged, Maven ordered their execution but the duo managed to escape and were saved by the Scarlet Guard.The quote saying how “anyone can betray anyone” is mentioned five times throughout the book. One instance was towards the end of the book when Cal and Mare realize that they had been betrayed by none other than Maven. The quote highlights the many betrayals in the book, which were extremely important in shaping the overall plot. Another quote from the book was stated by Julian, Mare’s mentor. He had mentioned how “words can lie”.
This is also significant to the book as a whole because the book, along with betrayals, was full of lies and deceits from many of its characters. One example of this occurred when Mare attended her first lunch gathering with other silver nobles. She had lied, reluctantly, about how Reds were born to serve silvers. Other characters, such as Maven, had lied in order to achieve their own goals.
One major deceit was how the silver royalties–the King Tiberias, Queen Elara, Cal, and Maven–lied to Red and Silver alike about Mare’s identity. The book Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard started off like any other fictional fantasy novel–a main character stuck by poverty, kings and queens, superhuman abilities, etc. But when I continued to read, the interesting plotline started to take unexpected twists and turns, taking me on a journey that I did not regret. As dark secrets were revealed and enemies found, I found it increasingly hard to put down the book. The skillfully crafted descriptions and powerful foreshadowing made the scenes come to life.
I could picture each and every character and their surroundings and their expressions as they communicated with each other. The best thing about this book was how Aveyard transformed the basic theme of “rags to riches” and incorporated it into this beautifully written novel.Aveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. Vol.
1, New York, HarperCollins, 2016.