Power, blood and enlightenment

Red Queen Book Review

Brandi Flores

More stories from Brandi Flores

Mapping a tragedy
December 3, 2017

One of the most haunting and shameful aspects of American history is that we segregated people according to race and skin color. In the world of the novel Red Queen, written by Victoria Aveyard, conditions are similar, with people separated by the blood colors of silver and red. The animosity between these segregated groups is just as volatile. However, Aveyard’s book approaches these differences with a new context and a commitment to addressing the ignorance of profiling human beings due to any biological difference.

Aveyard is an author who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in screenwriting at the University of Southern California and she garnered a Goodreads Choice Awards for her first novel Red Queen. She says her career became a convenient excuse to read a lot of books and watch countless movies. She was inspired to write in the fantasy genre because she had a visual image of a female teenager who could control lightning and her background in film studies clearly informs the wealth of descriptive imagery in this book.

Red Queen is a young adult fantasy novel. It is the first book in a proposed series released in 2015. It is set against the backdrop of a divided civilization with two classes, the Silver-bloods, and the Red-bloods. The Silver-bloods believe the Red-bloods are inferior to them because the Red-bloods don’t have the special powers like they have, and they force them to find work before a certain age or face being drafted into the ongoing war between two countries.

Despite the fantasy setting, Aveyard’s characters are realistic and relatable in most cases. They are unique to each other in terms of their perspective and motivations, giving readers various ways to view various situations and conflicts. However, the story is narrated from the point of view of Mare, a Red-blood. Many characters have flaws, but they rise above their weaknesses to do what they believe is right, even if it requires personal sacrifice.

Another enjoyable asset of this novel is the powers Silver-bloods possess. Each Silver-blood has his or her own special ability, whether it’s mind-reading, creating fire, or controlling metal. These powers make them amazing and terrifying at the same time. It also adds an imaginative unpredictability to the novel. This element of the story becomes even more breath-taking when a Red-blood ends up discovering that she has one of these powers without a drop of Silver-blood flowing through her veins, inviting us all to wonder how much potential is squandered when entire groups of people are raised thinking that they are capable of far less than their true ability may allow.

The best part of the book is the ending, which includes jaw-dropping plot twists. The scenario tension shifts from a life or death situation for some to a life-shattering ultimatum for all. While Aveyard refuses to neatly tie up every subplot by the end, she provides enough of a resolution to give readers a sense of satisfaction, while still leaving some cliffhangers for the next book in the series.

Overall, the book is wonderfully engaging, and I would recommend it to young adults who are interested in thoughtful, visually descriptive fantasy novels. If you find yourself wanting more after turning the last page, you’re in luck. The second book, Glass Sword, was released earlier this year, while the third book is scheduled for publication in early 2017.