A world divided by blood – the Reds, everyday humans destined to be the serving class of a harsh and dangerous life, and the Silvers, godlike nobility who rule over the Reds without compassion or understanding – finds hope in one Red girl who is more than what she seems. Amidst princely romances, betrayal, and one Red rebellion, a kingdom is forced to take a second look at their existence, and what it could be in the future.
Victoria Aveyard has a wonderful style that leaves you completely ensnared in this world she has created. The writing is strong and leaves very little in question with her vivid imagery. It is a dystopian novel that disguises itself in silk gowns and battle armor.
I thoroughly enjoyed the figures on both sides of the ruling class. Mare, the female protagonist, is strong, empathetic, yet still realistic according to the life she has known. She grows up in a town mired in mud and is forced to abandon her family for a palace and a false identity. With that background, I loved her smart mouth, quick feet aided by past thieving, and stubborn heart. She becomes an ultimate sympathetic character who is torn between duty and emotion. The same goes for Cal and Maven, the two male characters who enjoyed most of the novel’s spotlight, who are both so complex and driven that you are never able to get a firm hold on their true personalities…and that was a good thing!
There were a few characters who didn’t really garner much notice from me, though, mostly because – with such a list of characters to remember – it felt as though the author couldn’t afford to spend much time on their structuring. The characters who stick out to me the most as needing more attention to their storyline are Gisa, Evangeline, and King Tiberias.
- Gisa, Mare’s sister, does get a decent bit of page time. She is clearly one of Mare’s driving forces – the successful, talented little sister who is loved by all, yet is ruined through a favor to Mare – and the reason Mare finds herself in the situations we see throughout the novel. But Gisa’s personality shifts (understandably, of course) towards the middle of the book, and at moments it became confusing. There is a teaser that the next book contains more towards grasping the person Gisa becomes.
- Evangeline is a typical female villain – angry, dangerous, extremely powerful, and hungry for recognition. In today’s world of creating villain’s with humanistic traits to make them seem full realized, Evangeline fell flat. Don’t get me wrong, she worked for what the novel needed, an adversary on (maybe) level ground with Mare. Still, just as I am with Gisa, I hope to see more from her in the sequel.
- King Tiberias is my biggest complication for characterization. Tiberias is the reigning monarch of the Silver world, the one who controls everything we see go on in Red lives, yet he is given very little explanation. Instead, we are mostly told his character through others. For example: details of his former marriage before the now Queen Elara, his feelings towards his son Maven, and his attitude towards the Silvers he rules. This was all vaguely alluded to, but we never even see much from him until the very end, when it’s too late to do much with the information.
This story flowed wonderfully; the pacing felt exactly right, never making me slog through the words or wish I could fast forward events to the important parts. Moves by characters were calculated and reasonable in enhancing the plot, especially where it concerned those living in the palace who played the game of deception to a T in order to survive. I felt full by the end, too, eager to see what comes next but perfectly happy where the story had led and ended. Mare’s development as the book progressed was not only realistic, but inevitable, and Aveyard does a great job making you feel a part of the victories and failures of every plan Mare becomes part of.
The One Con:
My one complaint was the ROMANCES in this book. One makes complete sense, one was a little iffy but then is revealed as pivotal to the plot, and the third was simply eh. You could make arguments for all, I will concede. Yet, nothing in any of Mare’s interactions with these three characters felt like evidence for their love toward her. The first boy we are introduced is an obvious connection – friends since childhood – but the second and third appear more and more confusing as the book continues. Mare is sarcastic, abrasive at times, and only rarely seen as anything that could result in romance. So, I guess personally, I had a hard time believing she could be the object of three boys’ love.
Upon completion, I fully enjoyed this book and am eager to read the next. This is a world that I assume, though it is never specifically stated, is really a dystopia of today’s world map. Aveyard disguises it enough through “magical” abilities and breathtaking world building that I forgot to imagine it as a futuristic view of today. It was another world, wholly encompassed in its own rules and passions, and I loved immersing myself within it.