Genre: YA dystopian fantasy
Synopsis: There are two kinds of people, Reds and Silvers, distinguishable by the color of their blood. And by the powers that the latter wield. Silvers make up the upper echelon of society, keeping Reds under their control and using them as cannon fodder in their war effort. To make things more interesting, the anonymous Scarlet Guard has taken it upon themselves to be the vanguard of what they hope will become an uprising by the Reds.
Mare is a Red, trying to provide for her family. But unbeknownst to her, she also has the power of a Silver, and by pure luck discovers those powers in front of a large audience. There was nothing for it but for the Silvers to claim her as their own–except for one problem. She really isn’t, either in heart or by blood.
Series: First in a series.
POV: First person.
Preview: First seven chapters.
Well. Didn’t see that coming.
This book initially disguises itself as a fun, kinda romanticized dystopian YA fantasy. The writing style and way in which the author tells the story is engaging, but from the plot I figured I had the story figured out. While it could get dark, it was ultimately about a special girl potentially undercover in the royal court, with not one but two princes in her life. And then Victoria Aveyard revealed the ticking time bomb that had been nestled into the plot for the entire book, just before it went off.
There were hints that the story wasn’t quite so predictable or simplified, certainly enough to keep the narrative engaging. But I didn’t quite believe them, and I imagine I wasn’t supposed to. Of course, once we find out what’s really going on, all the things about the story that didn’t quite seem to fit suddenly make sense. And then I see how these elements were designed to lure us into thinking we know what’s going on, because of the similarities to familiar narratives.
So this story played me, and I’m totally cool with that. It also taught me something about my relationship with my expectations, which is nice for me.
As for the characters, Mare perseveres in her role as the protagonist through sheer determination–she’s completely out of her depth, thrown into a situation where she doesn’t understand anything about the people or culture. The people surrounding her have grown up playing court politics, while she was trying to survive. The only thing she’s got going for her is her understanding of just how messed up it is that these people have paid for their luxurious lifestyles with the blood of her people. And the dedication to do something about it, in whatever way she can.
She could never make it without people in that world covering for her and helping her, but all of them have their own reasons for doing so.
There’s Cal, who cares about doing the right thing for Reds as well as Silvers but doesn’t want to upset his world to do it. His brother Maven, who also understands that Silvers have what they do at the expense of Reds, and is willing not only to upset his world, but sacrifice members of it to achieve a better outcome. Their father the King, who has no sympathy for the Reds and intends to use Mare as a tool for quelling unrest. Maven’s mother the Queen, who is very unhappy Mare couldn’t be killed and swept under the rug. And Julian, Cal’s uncle, a remnant of an older regime, who believes justice for the Reds must come about gradually, and disagrees with the current actions of the Scarlet Guard.
Which of these Silvers, mostly members of the royal family, can Mare trust to help her people? How willing is she to bring about change? Does she have even a chance of success, or is that besides the point?