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Red Queen: Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Red Queen is the highly anticipated debut by Victoria Aveyard. A blend of fantasy and dystopia, Red Queen will appeal to fans of The Selection, Divergent, and Shadow and Bone. The story of Mare, a young woman in a world divided by blood -- the Silvers are the rulers and the Reds the commoners -- is full of court intrigue, sociopolitical commentary, and social unrest. There are several violent gladiator-type fights, confrontations, torture scenes, and revolutionary/terrorist strikes that kill characters. With its courageous protagonist, action-packed plot, and romantic possibilities, Red Queen is a winning series start for fantasy and dystopia lovers.
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What's the story?
In Victoria Aveyard's debut fantasy novel RED QUEEN, Mare is a 17-year-old pickpocket in a world where caste is determined by blood color; she and other commoners are Reds, and the ruling class are Silvers (who literally bleed silver). She faces a grim future without an apprenticeship or a career. When she turns 18, her only option as a Red will be to join an army at war. When her best friend Kilorn loses his apprenticeship and faces conscription, Mare attempts a plan that fails spectacularly. The night her plan goes awry, she meets a handsome young man who catches her stealing and questions her about her life. The next day, Mare is mysteriously hired as a royal servant to the Silvers, who've gathered at a palace festival to determine which aristocratic girl will be betrothed to the two eligible princes -- one of whom is the mysterious stranger Mare met the previous night. During the competitive display of rich girls' powers, Mare discovers that she possesses supernatural powers unheard of in a Red. To cover up the existence of Red with "Silver" skills, the King forces her to pretend she's a long-lost Silver brought up by Reds. She's also betrothed to a prince, but not the older one she knows and likes. As Mare learns how to appear as a Silver when she's actually a Red, she's drawn to the underground rebellion that seeks to overthrow Silver rule.
Is it any good?
Aveyard packs a lot into a first novel: world building, court intrigue, caste divisions, superpowers, and a main character with multiple possible love interests. Like Tris or Alina, Mare is unique: She has amazing powers in a world where Silvers boast powers but Reds do not; like Katniss in The Hunger Games, she bears the burden of playing a part for society's rulers but secretly feeling a kinship with subversive revolutionaries. She's beautiful but doesn't see it; she's desired but can't maturely navigate her feelings for the Princes: Maven, the sensitive second son she's been tied to, or Cal, the fiery firstborn who's engaged to a nasty, but politically advantageous, match. And like most 17-year-olds, she can occasionally grate on readers' nerves with her indecision and insecurity.
While Aveyard's world-building starts off slow, it grows more complicated as the book continues. Even by the end of the book, readers may not master all the Silver powers, but by then the story is so page-turning those details don't matter so much as figuring out who's lying and who's going to survive to see Book 2. Aveyard's pacing starts off reflective, as young Mare discovers everything about the Silver court for the first time. By the last third of the book, the story is so compelling you can't stop reading. Don't bother trying to figure out the end game; Aveyard is a crafty writer who sneaks in twists and makes readers care, despite a few niggling plot holes and the occasionally exasperating shifts in Mare's romantic feelings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of fantasy-dystopian books that take place in totalitarian or caste-based societies. Why are these stories so compelling to readers?
The romance in Red Queen is understated even though the main character has three potential love interests. Did you like the way the romance was handled? Do you expect more romance in the upcoming installments?
There's quite a gap between the lives of the Reds and the Silvers. Do you think there are still class disparities and discrimination today?
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