Advanced Reader Copy received from the publisher (Orion) via NetGalley
Release date (UK): 12th February 2015 (seems to vary on different websites though)
Red Queen tells the story of Mare Burrow, a sixteen year old girl living in a war torn, dystopian civilisation. This society is divided by blood; Mare is a Red, a normal human being with red blood. Her society is presided over by Silvers, an advanced breed of human who bleed silver, each with their own special power.
The Reds flounder in poverty, providing services to the privileged, almost God-like Silver elite. Mare is struggling to make ends meet, attempting to escape her imminent Conscription which will mean she is sent to fight in the interminable war. She steals to get by and has no idea how the other half lives, until a chance encounter thrusts her into the heart of it.
Mare is thrown into a new world when she is taken into the royal household, first as a servant and then as a princess. As Mare is discovering the indulgence to which the other half are accustomed, she is also realising the strength within herself. Because although her blood is red, she also has a power – one that may be stronger than the Silvers’.
I haven’t read a huge amount of young adult dystopian novels, only really The Hunger Games and Divergent, but I think that Red Queen will stand up amongst the best of the genre. It does carry threads reminiscent of both of these novels, particularly in the protagonist, Mare – she struggles to understand why she is different like Tris and is on the cusp of a revolution like Katniss – but she’s definitely a character in her own right. The atmosphere feels original as well – whilst it is set in a future, it almost feels like it could be in the past. The stark disparity between the top royalty and the lowly reds; the decadent banquets and parties held by the royals and the public executions had a historical feel to me. Throw in the underhand power struggles between the privileged and it was almost a little Game Of Thrones-esque at times.
The premise was different, and it compelled me to keep reading, I enjoyed learning about the various superpowers and the stark contrast between rich and poor and the segregation between the breeds of human was portrayed in a manner which was relevant and thought-provoking. The story charts the struggles of inequality in a new and original way.
The palace setting was a fantastic backdrop for the story and the descriptions of the extravagant royal events, juxtaposed with the intense, brutal training regimes the silvers undergo to harness their powers makes for something quite unique. Whilst it features the typical love triangle found in this type of book, the romance was subtle enough to not take over the story, and added intrigue as Mare struggles to know who to trust. She is told near the beginning that “Anyone can betray anyone” as the story drives towards its climax she realises just how true that is.
This book, the first of a trilogy, isn’t out until early next year, and it’s entering an overcrowded market – young adult dystopia is definitely where it’s at at the moment. I hope it doesn’t get lost in the sea of other books in the genre, as I think this book deserves recognition. I’ll be looking out for the next iinstalment