The Red Queen series is great for young adult readers who are maybe not quite grown enough for Game of Thrones but love a fantasy adventure involving royal intrigue and superpowers.
The first in this series is Red Queen. Mare Barrow is a teenage pickpocket, stealing in the marketplace of her town to help support her family. They are ‘Reds’, an oppressed class of citizens ruled by ‘Silvers’. The designations are due to the colors of the group’s blood. Reds have red blood and work as a servant class. Silvers have silver blood and also superhuman powers. Each Silver family has a different power, and they range from the ability to control fire, mind-reading, the power of persuasion, super speed or super strength. The Silvers rule mercilessly and the Reds have no opportunity to better their lives. Reds have forced army conscription and few soldiers return alive and whole. Trying to escape conscription for herself and her friend Kilorn, Mare attempts to steal enough money to find a new life and is caught by a target. Her target happens to have an in at the royal palace and helps her get a job there to send money home. At the palace, Mare discovers that she is not just a helpless Red, but something more. She is quickly caught up in a rebellion plot with members of the royal household. This book was fun, a fast read and difficult to put down.
Glass Sword picks up in the moments after the extremely violent and turbulent ending of Red Queen. Mare finds herself on the run with a rebel group and an unexpected ally- a prince who had previously allied with the Silvers and whose loyalties are still in question. She is reunited with her family and goes on quest to find more people like her- Reds with Silver ability- before they are hunted down and assassinated by the government. This book drags a bit compared to the first but is still very entertaining. As an elderly person (40+) I found it absurd that a 17-year old was the one planning a lot of the military action and coming up with plans that somehow no one else in the country had considered. At one point, one of the characters calls Mare out on her nonsense which was strangely comforting to this old woman.
Queen Song and Steel Scars are prequel novellas. Queen Song centers on the former queen of Norta, Coriane. She is an absent but frequently mentioned figure in the Red Queen books, having died under strange circumstances. Queen Song details her life prior to meeting the prince of Norta and ends with her death, confirming the suppositions made by characters in the first two books. This book was an interesting look at characters that shape so much of the action in the series but are barely, if at all, present.
Steel Scars is another prequel, but this book focuses on rebellion leaders. Specifically, the book is centered on Diana Farley, a captain of the Scarlet Guard. This was nearly my first DNF of the year. The only reason I read to the end was the brief length. The story is interspersed with BOLD FACED ARMY DISPATCHES WHERE EVERY THIRD WORD IS REDACTED, BUT HONESTLY REDACTED FROM WHO? which do little to further the narrative and I ended up skipping most of them by the end. I think Farley could be an interesting character but I found this book to be extremely dull, very unlike the previous three I’ve reviewed here.