Can Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen stand out from all the other dystopian fantasy novels? [Review]

Can Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen stand out from all the other dystopian fantasy novels? [Review]

Red Queen
By Victoria Aveyard 
Published by Harper Collins 
ISBN 978 1409150725

Here we are again in a dystopian land à la Hunger Games, Divergent and so on, where a plucky heroine takes on the powers of evil. The publicity for Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen pitches it as a clever blend of various dystopian series that have gone before. But that's doing the novel a disservice, as there are bouts of originality in this thrilling story.

It seems like we have another Katniss Everdeen clone at the centre of the novel, but Aveyard's character might just be strong enough to knock the mighty Katniss off the top of her perch.

The Kingdom of Norta and the surrounding lands are divided down the middle by blood. The Silver Bloods are elite, god-like beings with magical powers who make up the privileged upper classes. The Red Bloods are the lower classes whose only role in Norta society is to serve the Silvers. Red young men have a particularly useful purpose. They serve as fighting forces when the Silvers are at war.

Aveyard sets up the world of the Reds and Silvers very convincingly. It's a volatile world that the Silvers totally control. But their ruling status is about to be rocked from a very unexpected source.

Seventeen year-old Red Mare Barrow is the spark that will ignite a rebellion that could dethrone the Silvers and bring about equality in Norta. Mare, born and bred in a lowly Red village called The Stilts, finds herself dragged into Silver society as a servant. That's a big mistake on the part of the Silvers.

Mare suddenly discovers that she can summon lightening from the tips of her fingers, and word gets around. But power like this only belongs to Silvers! Who is humble, low-life Mare Barrow? There is red blood in her veins, not silver. Something has to be done.

Worried about Mare's potential, the Silvers declare her a long-lost Silver princess and immediately set her up to marry a Silver prince.

Aveyard moves the plot along very deftly after this as the novel picks up pace. Mare finds herself at the centre of Silver Royal family plotting and politics and, despite the danger she is putting herself in, she enters the secret world of the Scarlet Guards, who are working to bring down the Silver regime.

There is a definite feeling of déja-read in this first part of the promised Red Queen trilogy, with much of the plot and setting echoing the Hunger Games novels. The fighting arenas and female revolutionary are all a bit familiar.

But the conclusion of the book does hint at a departure from what we think might happen next. Regardless of any similarities, Aveyard does keep things alive with her excellent world building. Her background descriptions are excellent, and help greatly to build up reader intrigue and interest.

Up to this point, Red Queen has trod a predictable and familiar path. But the second visit to the Silver/Red world might just surprise by taking off in a direction readers don't expect.

John Millen can be contacted on

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Dystopian tale of power, peril, and a lot of blood


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