Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 667
Red Queen is a dystopian, young adult, fantasy novel written by Victoria Aveyard; it is the first installment in the Red Queen series. The setting is a post-apocalyptic kingdom called Norta, which is divided into two social classes based on the color of one’s blood.
The Reds are poor, uneducated red-blooded humans who live in impoverished conditions in small villages called “Stilts.” They have no rights and are treated as slaves and animals. They don't have enough money or resources to survive, so they are forced to steal or get jobs as servants of the rich and powerful elites known as the “Silvers.” Those who are unable to get a job are conscripted and sent to war.
The Silvers are wealthy, silver-blooded nobles who have supernatural abilities. Some can control the elements, such as “nymphs” who can control water. Others are “strongarms” that have superhuman strength. There are Silvers who are “storms,” meaning that they can manipulate the weather. The list goes on. Because of this, the Silvers rule the kingdom and enjoy all kinds of privileges.
In the center of this social divide is the main protagonist: seventeen year old Mare Barrow—a Red who steals from the Silvers to help her family. However, Mare's life changes when she meets Cal, a handsome young man, who enables her to work in the palace as a servant to the Silvers. Mare soon learns that even though her blood is red, she possesses the ability to control lightning. Frightened that the status quo might be disrupted if the people learn of Mare’s power, the Silvers give her a new identity (Mareena Titanos), and King Tiberias Calore VI decides to marry her to his son Maven.
Mare learns that Cal, whom she had a crush on, is actually the king’s first born son, and now she must marry his step-brother. She learns that her own brother Shade has been killed in the war between The Lakelands and the Kingdom of Norta, and she decides to join the Scarlet Guard: a rebellious Red force that fights for equality of the classes. She is joined by Maven and slowly falls in love with him. What follows is an action packed story of love, friendship, justice, and betrayal.
After realizing that Maven has betrayed and used her so that he can rule Norta instead of his step-brother, Mare and Cal are sentenced to death by Queen Elare for committing treason; the Queen used her mind control to force Cal to kill the King, so that her son Maven could become the new ruler. This makes the Queen and Maven the main antagonists of the story. Cal and Mare are saved, however, by the Scarlet Guard, and Mare is told that there are others who possess the same mutation she does. One of them is her brother Shade, who has escaped his execution using his power of teleportation. Mare then goes on a quest to find the other mutants and vows to dethrone Maven and bring justice to the Kingdom.
Because of the similarities in plot lines, some readers have compared the Red Queen to the Hunger Games series, the Game of Thrones series, and even X-men. While many have praised the novel for being entertaining, innovative, and overall an enjoyable read, others argue that it lacks character development, especially with the main characters. There are also complaints about the predictability of the plot and the focus on romantic sub-themes instead on the uprising of the Reds against the Silver elite, which is the main theme of the novel.
Nevertheless, Red Queen remains a fascinating tale with an important massage. It is the beginning of the journey of a strong, determined, and resilient heroine with a good moral compass and a fiery will. It teaches the reader that it’s wrong to judge people by their heritage, their ancestry, or by the color of their blood, in this case. The novel can be analyzed as commentary on racism and classism.