Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Victoria Aveyard
(2016, HarperTeen)

Red Queen, book 2

Fleeing the new Silver King, Mare and her friends seek safe harbor, and search for other newbloods like her to overthrow the evil monarchy.


-- First reading (paperback)
September 17th to October 6th, 2022


Definitely weaker than the first installment in this series. It progressed the story of Mare as she searches for a way to get back at her betrayal, still coming to terms with what she can do and how people now rely on her –or she thinks they do. The story was a little too familiar, a mix of Mockingjay and X-Men. I hope we get a reason why people can do what they do, as it seems very random, unlike the Silvers, who seem a lot more structured in their mutations. What really turned me off in this story was the way Mare treats people, more like tools, and I don’t believe her partial redemption near the end. Worse, though, was all the teenage angst. It seems like every page had a paragraph that ended with something like “Or it wasn’t”, contradicting everything she thought in the rest of the paragraph. The text was dripping with heavy negative emotion. Fortunately, the main climax of the book was a very well written action sequence, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so the book ended on a high note.

Spoiler review:

I wasn’t overly enamored with the first book in this series, but this was a definite step down. It picks up without pause from the end of Red Queen, and brings Mare to an island by submarine where reds have been gathering. When she’s imprisoned there, she decides she needs to save as many newbloods as possible, and sets off to do just that. This book is the result of her obsession, her self-hero worship, and the price she has to pay for liberating them –her love and her friend, not to mention her brother (maybe more than one), and any respect she had by anybody, including that gained at the beginning of her crusade.

Throughout, Mare’s determination hardens, but her self-doubt rises. It’s a cycle that feeds itself, as she presses on in the wrong direction at every turn, resulting in her belief that she and she alone can bring Maven to justice, bring the silvers to their knees and restore equality. Thankfully it’s mentioned by several people how she seems to want to replace the silver empire with a red one, or to install herself and the newbloods as the upper class. There’s good reason the Colonel doesn’t trust her, and I think she’s proving all throughout that she can’t be trusted to bring equality to the world. Not that the Colonel wants equality either. He would put the silvers in chains under the heel of the reds.

The time on the island was a little dull as Mare finds that she has a useful skill, but nobody wants to take advantage of it, and nobody wants to pursue the names in Julian’s book. The most interesting part was the attempted jailbreak, where Mare proves that she keeps trusting the wrong people. That was when it looked like Kilorn had joined the Colonel. Too bad it was just a ruse to get the Colonel to trust him, so he could get her out with the help of Farley and Shade, who can teleport her to safety. As with the X-Men, I wonder how all these mutations came to be. Some, like telepathy, have been speculated for a long time. But how does teleportation come about?

Regardless, Cal flies them off the island in a stolen jet, and Farley takes them to an abandoned airstrip where Mare can get to the first person on the list. They spend much of the book finding people, and it’s at least interesting, if long, because sometimes they are ahead of Maven, sometimes behind, and it’s always grizzly or a trap when they are behind him.

Unfortunately, the author doesn’t do Mare’s internal struggle as well as Katniss was done in Mockingjay. They are both symbols, neither side particularly wants them, but at the same time, both sides want them. I struggled through Katniss’ PTSD in Mockingjay, but this was a lot harder to get through. Like Katniss, Mare tries to maintain ties with both her potential lovers, and fails them both. Cal holds her all night (though apparently they aren’t lovers), while Kilorn gives her the silent treatment. But he comes back to her, around the time that Cal gets fed up with the martyr she seems to want to be. I can’t say the love triangle was particularly interesting or compelling.

The author’s writing style doesn’t help, especially in these moments. It’s long of detail and not much on substance. There is so much teenage angst pouring out of the pages I felt used up at the end of every chapter. So many paragraphs ended with a thought, then a reversal, and maybe one of those would come to pass. Or maybe not. (Yeah, like that…) She takes her abilities as the ultimate power, though she’s proven wrong time and again, from Maven’s clicking device, to the power-absorbing stones, to others whom she can’t control.

And then they meet Jon, whose power would seem to be the ultimate. I think of him floating like Dr. Strange, but with a wispy bottom like the guardian of the Soul Stone, maybe with sparkles filling out the rest. The scene is almost absurd, as he talks in riddles and confusion, the way all people who talk about the future must, I suppose.

As with Maven in the last book, and Kilorn and Cal in this one, she trusts Jon right away, because his vision of a rescue of so many newbloods in Maven’s prison aligns with her self-appointed savior complex. Fortunately, the prison break is the best part of the book, and it should have been the climax. They use a shapeshifter to imitate Maven (though I don’t see how this could ever work –aren’t there passcodes to prove he’s the King, rather than relying on sight alone? Their approach to the prison was akin to using a tape recording of Maven’s voice to allow them to land. What if they’d been enemies determined to destroy the prison?)

Given the stupidity of how they got into the prison complex, the rest was well executed. They impersonate the main guard once he turns on them, and there’s a big firefight where the mutants get to strut their powers. Mare even goes ballistic with some of the guards who were about to surrender, frying them with her lightning, which is what drives a wedge between her and Cal. Then they go on a rampage in the cells, freeing all the reds they can, and even the silvers being held there. They find Julian and Sara, and a bunch more who were persecuted for speaking out against the King.

Maven’s mother Elara catches Mare, but her newbloods rescue her, until they are chased onto the tarmac. Outlining more of the prison’s stupidity, they didn’t destroy the two aircraft sitting on the runway, allowing all the newbloods to take off without chase, and without being fired upon. Elara catches them on the tarmac, too, and starts getting into their minds, but when Shade is killed by a bullet meant for Mare, Mare takes all her pent up energy and throws it at the Queen, killing her.

They bring the bodies of Shade and the Queen back to the island, where they present them to the Colonel, and even hijack a TV broadcast (like in Mockingjay) to show the nation.

Unfortunately, the book didn’t end with the rescue of the prisoners. Like others, I also think it’s stupid to allow all those silvers on the island; only Julian and Sara have proven themselves; they should have stopped at an intermediary point, as there’s no certainty that they will embrace the cause of the Scarlet Guard. In fact, I’m sure most of them won’t, as they haven’t given much thought to the injustice –it even took Cal a long time to see their point of view.

Mare is invited to join an international group that prioritizes newbloods, and has silvers and reds mixed together in their society. I wonder, though, how fair and just it actually is…

Mare unleashes her fury on the Colonel next, who concedes to her next mission –to rescue the underaged infantry group being sent to the war front. The jet is shot down, and they are all captured. The book ends on another cliff-hanger, which I’m okay with, as Mare is shown to the nation, and it’s revealed that Jon is standing at his side, making us question whether Mare made another questionable choice about which man to follow.

I’ll have to move on to the next book, just to see what happens, but I hope Mare grows a sense of reasonability, not just trying to reverse the roles of society. As she already noted to herself, she’s broken every promise she’s ever made, from Cal to Kilorn, and even to the newbloods when she forced Cameron, who can suck away powers like the boy in X-Men 3, to join them on the prison break –against her will. I guess she has to fall before she can rise up. I hope it’s an interesting rise, because the fall was hard to bear.


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