Red Queen

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This is a world divided by blood – red and 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.

383 pages; #1 in Red Queen Series; YA/Fantasy; 2015

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Mare Barrow lives in a world where there are only two kinds of people – red and silver. The godlike Silver-blooded reign on high, each one gifted with a unique ability that are feared by those Red-blooded. Reds, whose blood renders them insignificant, whose normality makes them meek and powerless in comparison.

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The opening scene is of an event called First Friday, where Reds are mandated to sit back and cheer as two Silvers are chosen to compete against one another, ability versus ability, in a specially made arena, before both fighters are immediately healed before their battle wounds form battle scars. This serves as a cruel reminder of their strength, their invincibility.

Mare’s home life is peppered with loved ones. Aside from her kind parents, there is the best friend (Kilorn) who keeps her grounded and her younger sister (Gisa) whose sewing hand is the pride, joy, and provider of the Barrow family. Three studs adorn Mare’s ear, each one a gift from a brother who was conscripted by the Silvers for war.

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The main character describes herself as one whose only talent is that of a pickpocket. In an attempt to save Kilorn from being conscripted, the future of the Barrow family is suddenly made uncertain. Mare, filled with guilt and desperation, resorts to stealing from drunks outside an inn. There she meets Cal, a young man kind enough to spare her some coin. Mare finds herself defeated and sadly confesses that this was the only way she could be of use to her family.

The very next day, Mare is miraculously escorted from her home due to a royal summons offering her a job. Her first day will be spent on serving duty as the royal family hosts a pageant in hopes that a young woman will be chosen by each of the two princes as future brides. These potential brides are presented one after the other, each showcasing their ability to the cheers of their houses and beneath the watchful eyes of the royal family.

After Mare’s serving section begins to crumble to the ground following a particularly powerful contender’s performance, our girl falls in an electric net of some sort …and lives to tell the tale.

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Mare is Red with the power of Silver. Electricity moves within her veins and can be called upon at will. Never before has a Red possessed such capabilities and to prevent uproar and fear from their subjects, the royals hatch a foolproof plan to keep the peace.

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Mare Barrow is no more. Reborn as Mareena Titanos of House Titanos, daughter of the late General Ethan Titanos and his wife, lady Nora Titanos. Fallen in battle and his wife’s death following shortly after, little Mareena was taken in and raised by a Red, where all her life she had lived unaware that she was Silver. As a clincher, she is to be married to the king’s second son, the spare to the heir, Prince Maven.

Now Mare must leave her family behind and learn the ways of this new life. With heavy makeup applied daily to hide away the rouge from her cheeks and lessons to harness her skills, Mare has enough to juggle.

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Then she is approached by the Scarlet Guard, a resistance of Reds who have attracted the wrath of the Silvers, hoping Mare will make use of her time with the Silvers as a double agent.

The cherries on top of the mess that has become of Mare’s life? – her betrothed, Prince Maven, and Prince Tiberias Calore the Sixth, King of Norta, Flame of the North – otherwise known as? Cal.

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Can Mare live out this lie and stay true to herself or will the lines blur as Mare disappears within Mareena? Can she help her fellow Reds whilst simultaneously avoiding the Queen barging her way into her head to read her every thought and memory? Will she succumb to Maven’s charms? Will Mare shake free from Cal’s one kindness to her, as she is reminded that his ascension to the throne is detrimental to the evolution of Reds? Will she ever see her family and Kilorn again?

~

“The Hunger Games” was the first dystopian read to captivate me. “The Mortal Instruments” series was the second. I am so happy to be able to say that “Red Queen” sits on that level of love for me.

You know it’s good when you find that you care too much.

How much, you ask?

On a “Game of Thrones”  level.

You know how you fall in love with first time and when you return to it after some time has passed, you pick it apart and mutter to yourself, “…I liked this? Why?

I read it twice, the second time less than two months after the first.

And I was just as immersed and it was still unputdownable.

Three young men put themselves out there for Mare to notice them and each potential love interest had points up on her personal scoreboard:

Kilorn is the best friend, Mare’s right hand and the person who knows her best. But as Mare enters into a new chapters of her life, not having him by her side for comfort and guidance is sure to take a toll on their relationship as Mare reaches for those who are close by.

Maven, with his charm and his empathetic ways, builds a small spot in Mare’s heart for himself that even she cannot deny. Whether his intentions are pure or not is something you read to find out.

Cal, who was Mare’s first real connection to this life, is being trained to rule as his father did before him. He is to be a king who does not spare Red lives, whose heart cannot be cracked open to anyone of red blood. So the moments of softness he shows Mare confuse her at times and she can’t help but wonder who Cal could be if not for the title that binds him to a path she cannot stand by him on.

Who to trust?

Who to be wary of?

Through all this, Mare can only rely on herself to do what is right for her. Her journey is one you want to see through to the end. She begins in the shadows of her sister’s climbing success and when she’s shoved into the spotlight, you can’t wait to see how she’ll adjust, how she’ll rise to the occasion. From pauper to princess, Mare didn’t lose me as a reader. The inner workings of palace life was just as compelling as her life in the Stilts and you turn the last page aching to get your hands on book number two.

I was the perfect target audience for this book.

Give me a unique dystopian background that focuses on the underprivileged, with faint traces of a Hunger Games and X-Men (and a very mild Princess Diaries) feel.

Turn a girl who comes from nothing into a girl who seemingly has the world in the palm of her hands.

Show me a queen who can climb into people’s minds and not just read their memories like a book, she can take hold of their actions and do with them as she desires. (I fear having her as a mother-in-law almost as I do having Cersei as one.)

Throw in a group of rebels who dare try to take down a dynasty, to show the world their people deserve to be seen and heard, no matter the colour they bleed.

Strategically place three guys in the main character’s way and make it so I’m constantly flip-flopping over who is the right one for her.

Include nearly a handful of siblings that are completely relevant to the progression of the story and juxtapose it against the backdrop of a royal family with two loving brothers, one pining away for the love of their father.

Then make it all blow up in my face.

I loved it.

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1. Royals – Lorde
2. Army – Ellie Goulding
3. Hall of Fame – The Script
4. Guts Over Fear – Eminem ft. Sia
5. What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful) – Backstreet Boys
6. Take Me Home – Jess Glynne
7. Secret Love Song – Little Mix ft. Jason Derulo
8. I Knew You Were Trouble – Taylor Swift
9. Wildest Dreams – Taylor Swift
10. Part of Me – Katy Perry
11. Lightning – Little Mix

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