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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

REVIEW: Red Queen (0.1, 0.2, 1, 2) by Victoria Aveyard

Cruel Crown is a short story prequel collection to Red Queen. In "Queen Song," readers get Coriane's story, King Tiberias' first wife.  Keeping a secret diary as the only means to keep her thoughts private, she shares her courtship with the king, birth of Prince Cal and the dangerous challenges accompanying her royal life--namely the jealousy of powerful 'whisper' Elara.

This story is pretty heartbreaking.  Coriane is a good person whose position in the royal family makes her vulnerable and all too alone. Readers already knew she has a terrible fate but "Queen Song" sheds light on Elara's wickedness and Silver power struggles.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

"Steel Scars" also has a female protagonist but with a different perspective. Raised to be independent and strong, Diana Farley has been tasked with planting seeds of rebellion; however, the job is tougher than expected as she travels behind the scenes of black market smugglers, traders and extremists.  Readers get a glimpse into the rise of the Scarlet Guard as well as Farley's pending connection to Mare Barrow.

I didn't like this story as much. I find Farley difficult to connect with but I did enjoy the introduction of Shade Barrow and the set up for the other books in the series. I recommend reading this after Red Queen to garner a better handle of the rebellion.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Red Queen is the first in an exciting futuristic series which depicts a society torn between two social groups.  The Silvers are the upper echelon of society--the merchants, nobles and royalty--born with powerful abilities (i.e. metal manipulation, telepathy, elemental affinities) that have helped them oppress others. The Reds are akin to peasants, lacking abilities and generally doomed to live labor filled lives of poverty and forced conscription in the kingdom of Norta's ongoing war with other lands.

Seventeen year old Red, Mare Barrow is an accomplished pickpocket who suddenly finds herself working at the Silver Palace, surrounded by the very people she loathes. Mare discovers that despite her 'Red' blood, she possesses Silver super abilities--the power to call and control lightning. Seeing this as a threat, Mare is forced to live at the palace and hide in plain sight, masquerading as a long lost Silver and future princess/bride to Prince Maven, second in line to the throne.

I read this last year upon its publication and really liked it.  I completed an epic re-read to prepare for Glass Sword.  I have to say I loved this even more the second time. I picked up on the nuances explored by Aveyard.  The overall world building is fantastic as is the characterization.  Mare is compelling--likeable and vulnerable but snarky, independent and a multifaceted, kick butt female protagonist. I also like the host of secondary characters and the sophisticated plot building laced with deceit and some pretty jaw dropping revelations.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Building on the excruciating betrayal at the end of Red Queen, Mare Barrow is on the run following her botched execution and rescue by the Red Guard.  Life isn't going to get better any time soon. If throne usurper King Maven can't have her, no one will. Leaders of the Red Guard don't trust her abilities nor those of exiled Prince Cal. Events lead her and a group of allies on a mission to find Reds born with abilities, amassing an army to combat their oppressors.

The journey is dangerous with plenty of twists, lies, angst and heartbreaking loss. Mare continues to mature and make sacrifices for the greater good despite friction between those closest to her who believe her means go far beyond what is exceptable. Glass Sword is certainly a bit darker, especially the nail biting ending that will have readers literally screaming for the next book in the series.

Aveyard continues to entice readers with this unique read filled with action, romance and villainy that truly exhibits YA fiction at its best.  Recommended for science fiction and fantasy genre readers as well as those who want a dash of romance. Definitely appeal for both male and female readers, grades 9 and up.

Final rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @victoriaaveyard

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