“The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”
Mare was born red, grew up in poverty and, like all reds, struggles to survive. Together with her sister and her parents she lives in The Stilts, a red town not far from a royal residence. Without a talent or apprenticeship, which are both rare, Reds are forced to join the army by the age of 18 to fight in a seemingly everlasting war, for most of the Red it means death.“It's our nature. We destroy. It's the constant of our kind. No matter the colour of blood, man will always fall.”
Mare's three older brothers already joined the army and she has less than a year left, before being dragged away into battle, too. She and her family rely on her little sister Gisa, who has not only a talent for sewing, but also a stable job in the nearby Silver City where the royal residence is located. Unfortunately, Mare doesn't have a special talent apart from pickpocketing, making the descent into war almost inevitable.
Mare's best friend Kilorn loses his apprenticeship due to his master's untimely passing, making her desperate to save the both of them from their devastating fate. She seeks help from a friend, a merchant, who eventually agrees to smuggle them both to safety but only for a considerable payment. Mare forges a plan for a heist to get all the necessary money, fails in a horrible turn of events and Gisa has to pay a vast price.
The same night, devastated about her failure, she decides to pick one last pocket. She gets caught. But instead of getting a punishment from the ´almost´ victim, she meets a handsome young man who questions her about her life.
The next day, Mare gets hired as a servant to the royal family, who gathered at the palace to determine which titled girl is to be betrothed to the two princes. It came as a shock to her that one of the princes was the handsome man from the night before. During the competition and show off of the Silver girls´ powers, Mare and the whole audience discover that she has supernatural powers as well, which is unheard of in a Red.
The King forces Mare to pretend to be a long-lost Silver who was brought up by Reds in order to cover up the existence of a Red with powers of a Silver. She also gets engaged to the younger prince, but not the one she knows and likes. While Mare is learning how to be a Silver, she gets drawn into an underground rebellion, aiming to overthrow the Silver's reign.
“In the fairy tales, the poor girl smiles when she becomes a princess. Right now, I don't know if I'll ever smile again.”
"Rise, Red as the dawn."
I loved Red Queen. It even is one of my favourites now. I especially loved that there was a wide range of abilities the Silvers had such as controlling minds, metal, fire, water and more, even invisibility and healing were represented.
On the character side, I was a bit sceptical about Mare at the beginning, but she turned out better than expected. The big plus: She is everything else than perfect!
If you read this book, you will find yourself favouring and liking a few characters, but will soon learn that you can´t trust anyone in it. Everyone seeks the throne, would do anything to get it and uses others for their own means.
“His lips are on mine, hard and warm and pressing. The touch is electrifying, but not like I'm used to. This isn't a spark of destruction, but a spark of life. As much as I want to pull away, I just can't do it. Cal is a cliff and I throw myself over the edge, not bothering to think of what it could do to us both. One day he'll realise I'm his enemy, and all this will be a far-gone memory. But not yet.”
Even though the last quote suggests a story where romance plays a big role, the book focuses on the development of the characters and the world. I liked that very much and Aveyard amazingly showed that romance doesn´t have to loom large in a dystopian YA novel in order to make it brilliant.
I definitely recommend reading it!