Title: Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2015
Genre: YA Dystopian, YA Fantasy
I wish I could find a bigger pic of this cover. It gives me chills.
I actually went into this book thinking it was a retelling of Alice in Wonderland…you know, the Red Queen? How wrong I was! I feel almost foolish thinking that now, because it was so much better than I EVER expected. EVER.
The book was awesome. And there’s so many beautiful graphics that it was hard to choose only a few.
Ok, I guess I should get onto it…
So we are introduced to Mare Barrow. A pickpocket. A thief. And soon, a soldier in the army. At 17, she is coming up on her 18th birthday, and with it, mandatory service to the war front. It is called conscription, and all of Mare’s three older brothers have been taken to the war. It battles on, Reds against other Reds: a war fought over land by the oppressive Silvers.
Oh, yes. In our society here, people with red blood are second-class citizens. They are less than. They are slaves. The ones born of Silver blood (they literally bleed silver blood!) are separated into a city full of luxury, and all have different powers. Some Silvers can control fire, or metal, and some can control objects with their minds. They fight against each other in the arena for the Reds to watch; the Reds must never forget how strong their Silver overlords are.
When Kilorn, Mare’s best friend, loses his apprenticeship, he is forced to join the war. Anyone who does not work and is 18 must fight. Mare freaks…she has protected her friend ever since he arrived on her doorstep, starving and orphaned. She cannot let Kilorn go to war. She won’t. After some underground searching, she finds a rebel willing to transport Kilorn and herself to freedom. The cost? 2,000 Crowns, enough to feed Mare’s family for the rest of their life.
But Mare does not give up. She’s a master thief. She also has a sister who works for Silvers, embroidering handkerchiefs for them. If Mare can steal from a couple Silvers, she should be able to scrape enough together…but on the day Mare’s sister takes Mare to work, Mare chickens out after a terrorist attack by Reds is broadcast on TV. In a foolish effort to help, Mare’s sister tries to steal…and gets caught. A Silver breaks her hand, and now Mare has ruined her family’s only source of income.
When Mare receives a job to work at the palace, she eagerly goes off to her new life. But when an accident exposes a rare gift Mare didn’t know she had…she becomes a target and a princess in one day. With Red blood but Silver abilities, Mare is a mystery. But will the new life granted to Mare be a blessing…or a curse? Can she protect the ones she loves? And when two Silver princes seem to vie for Mare’s affection, can she really turn her back on her Red roots and pretend she is Silver to the core?
Oh, yes! I love the mix of dystopian and fantasy in this book! First we have a society that has second-class citizens, almost reminding us of slavery or repressed women. The color of your blood determines your future. So many lesson plan ideas can come from this! With the rags-to-riches princess angle, there’s so much to discuss…turning your back on your culture, your ideals, just for a chance at a better life? What a topic for discussion! And all the abilities the Silvers exhibit: you could have students write about the ability they would want and why…and what might be the downside to that ability. You could do what many classrooms have done before, and separate kids by “class,” so they can understand how it feels to be treated as a “Red” or a “Silver.” (This has been done with diffeeent books featuring class systems before, and it teaches lessons of tolerance and discomfort at being labeled “less” than someone).
I am brimming with ideas for this book! I think this would be an excellent addition to the classroom.
Lexile.com actually recommends this book for ages 11-17! For the first time, a YA book that has a score of HL740L is encouraged for a younger audience. This is great. This means that it could be appropriate for middle school classrooms as well: despite the HL rating, the mature material isn’t actually too mature for younger readers. I’m fascinated by this finding, because it is rare to find a book that appeals to such a broad age range. (And of course, readers over 17 will enjoy it as well). It feels good to know that even sixth graders could read this, though with it at 740, I would still recommend it to more competent readers, as it might be too difficult for some that struggle.
I know you’re seeing this a lot from me lately, but I give a Red Queen ★★★★★. It’s a book that has a rich world, a great protagonist (not too special but not too ordinary), and varied themes. It is appropriate for all ages, and it has a sequel, Glass Sword. Which I already have waiting to be read:
And have you seen the next book after that??
So, all in all, I say Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard gets…