Red Queen was one of the first books I read this year. To be honest, I thought I had reviewed it months ago, and only when I was updating the links on The List did I realise that I had completely neglected to talk about this book. That’s a pity, because it definitely deserves some attention.
As usual, I cannot remember how this book caught my attention. I think I might have seen it in a book store coming up to Christmas so, surprise surprise, it showed up under the Christmas tree, and I read it in very early January.
I’m glad it did, though! Richly imagined fantasy, Red Queen has stayed with me as Mare, a lower-class girl thrust into the upper echelons of a society which hates her, struggled to find her loyalties and her place in the world.
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.
Mare Barrow, normal girl, is caught up in a political intrigue as she discovers a power that she – as part of the genetically inferior Red race – should not have. Hidden in plain sight as a long-lost Silver and now engaged to a prince, Mare is caught up in a deadly game of lies as she tries to survive and simultaneously bring down the cruel regime which condemns her family and all those like her to poverty.
This book could have been like every other fantasy, where a supposedly normal girl turns out to be a special snowflake, is caught up in an intrigue, and never puts a foot wrong in bringing down a corrupt political system. But Red Queen, actually, is much more than that. Richly imagined and beautifully drawn, Mare’s struggles with her place in the world, her forced fiancé, her loyalty to her country and the crown against her love for her family and the conflicts that throws up. She’s not a perfect girl, and makes mistakes along the way, but they’re the kind of mistakes that have you clutching your heart and hoping it works out, rather than rolling your eyes at her for being stupid – or at least that’s what it was for me.
My only real complaints about this book? It ended on a massive cliffhanger which left me slack-jawed with shock, and didn’t flag this up in any way beforehand. And when I finished it, the sequel hadn’t yet been published. It has now – Glass Sword – but it’s sadly slipped down my ‘to-read’ list. Having just written this review, though, perhaps it will creep its way back up and into my heart.
There will be at least four Red Queen books, so I’m hoping the standard stays as high as it started out with this one. Also, I hate series which are named after one of the books in the series, because that makes it difficult to distinguish which you’re talking about. But these are minor quibbles.