The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?
I began the book with no expectations, but as the story progressed, I found myself disliking it more and more.
Let’s start with our main character, Mare. I still cannot get over her name.
Mare /noun/ – the female of a horse or other equine animal.
Every time someone said her name, or a love interest breathed it, all I could think of was a blushing girl horse. Sorry Mare. (hehe)
Mare is a Red in a society where Silvers dominate over Reds. (Sound familiar? Considering Red Rising had the similar premise of Reds living under the thumbs of the Golds.) While Silvers have cool powers like telepathy, water-bending, and telekinesis (as well as silver blood), Reds have plain ol’ red blood and no powers. They’re the servants, workers, and laborers of the society while Silvers are the elites, nobles, and royalty.
When you have this kind of oppression, there’s always the scent of revolution, eh? That’s exactly what happens – Reds banding together to go against the elitist Silvers.
“‘We are the Scarlet Guard and we stand for the freedom and equality of all man…”
All this stuff was pretty interesting! But then we get to the drama the main character gets into. In the blurb, it explains that Mare (neigh) gets a job at the Silver Palace. Her connections come from a one-chance meeting with the… DUN DUN DUN!! Crown prince of the land – Cal. How surprising.
Mare attends the Queenstrial as a servant, where different Silver females compete in a “pageant” to become the bride of the crown prince. Through a bunch of unlikely events, she ends up showing her really cool powers in front of all the Silvers participating and watching. But hold up a minute – Reds aren’t supposed to have powers? Now the royal family gets involved to cover the mess. And this is where I sigh deeply.
To save face, the king orders Mare to pretend to be the long-lost daughter of a Silver war hero who grew up like a Red as a means of propaganda. She is also betrothed to the second prince (half-brother of Cal), Maven. I was barfing so hard when the queen was talking about how speciiiaaaaaal Mare was.
“‘You are a miracle, Mare Barrow, an impossibility.'”
What is it with main characters always having a bitchy rival in books?? Why can’t we all be friends? Case point: a supporting character named Evangeline who is betrothed to one of the love interests, Cal.
“A smile ghosts over her face when her eyes fall on me. I don’t miss the feral flash of teeth.”
Why are their teeth always feral? Other than being a bitch, Evangeline and the other Silver nobles had no depth. Considering the fact that Mare and Evangeline were “rivals” throughout the book, I would’ve liked a little bit more details to know about Evangeline other than being aggressive, bitchy, and violent.
This drama goes on forever. And ever. It was halfway through the book and she’s still talking about liking one brother over the other and how to act like a Silver because “ohhh a Silver would never say sorry.”
It wasn’t until the latter half that things took a turn to an
awesome fantastic amazing level.
When Mare joins the Scarlet Guard? Ohhh, everything gets intense from there on. New loyalties are made while betrayals appear left and right – whether planned or not. From this point, the readers get to understand the two love interests better. Cal – the devoted, soldier who has grown to put a mask on – is pitted against Maven – who is always second, always thought after his older brother, always in the shadow – in not only romance but the political tension happening in the palace.
Speaking of romance – what romance? More like deception, betrayal, and manipulation. While the beginning of the book had a good start to a cheesy, lame romance that would dominate over the revolution plot, the end of the book really makes you think about each character’s motive and how they used other people’s emotions to control them.
“Anyone can betray anyone.”
This is a great quote in terms of the situations in the book, but something that bothered me was how Mare always said it after she thought about betraying someone or gets betrayed. It got so annoying. She said this exact quote seven times in the book! After the third time, I was ready to throw something. We. Get. It. No need to remind us every single freaking time you think about the “b” word.
In the end, Mare’s character develops considerably, especially after she joins the Scarlet Guard. Even though I disliked her at first for being so “spechialll,” she is not a Mary Sue. She fails when she tries things, and more than once. She does not magically learn how to use her powers and magically becomes an expert at it. Sometimes Mare does not know what is wrong, and what is right. Throughout the book, she starts to realize more about Silvers and their apathy towards life, as well as their true fear for a rebel organization that could threaten their existence.
While the beginning of the book set it up for a romance story set during a revolution that would have faded into the background, the second half turned a total 180 and set readers up for a rebellion that would completely change the society. The characters are not nice. By characters, I’m not even talking about the air/hot-headed Evangeline and Silver nobles. They lie. They betray each other. They keep secrets. They manipulate. Everyone is looking out for their own interests, based upon their situation. In the end, it all boils down to what they think is right, until they’re pitted with the question – what really is the right thing to do?
God I was so conflicted when I finished the book. I wanted to hug someone and cry at the second half. The first half made me cringe and cry too, but for a totally different reason. In the end, I’ve decided that I would rather have a book I dislike in the first half and like in the second than the other way around. Because right now, I’m totally up for the second book. Hit me up!
(I wasn’t going to give this… but the second half was just too enjoyable to rate so low.)