I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I think that breaking this unwritten reading rule is certainly acceptable when it comes to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. As depicted above, the cover is relatively plain: a simple silver crown overturned, dripping with what appears to be blood.
The simplicity of the cover speaks to the nature of the book: Mare Barrow, protagonist, pickpocket, and peasant because of the red color of her blood. Mare Barrow, living in a world divided between the Silver elite, named because their blood is colored silver, and the Red lower class. Mare Barrow, whose life is capsized when she discovers a secret ability that is only found in those who have Silver blood even though hers is red. You can imagine that this presents a few problems.
It’s a basic idea: teenage girl who has a semi-illegal job discovers that she is extraordinary in some way, shape, or form. However, I’ve read a lot of peasant-turned-princess fiction lately and I think that this one brings something new to the table. There is of course the supernatural abilities that everyone wants and no one has as well as the inevitable love triangle, but none of these aspects feel dated or overused. Aveyard keeps the reader’s attention sharper than a razor by twisting the plot in directions that were unforeseeable and often unforgivable, but then she presents an entire new set of details that neutralize the pH and balance out the situation just long enough to make the reader comfortable… and then she throws something else at you. The only constant is change.
I think that this ideal sums up the book as a whole. Mare is ripped from her world because of her abilities, forced to leave behind the family that she loved and the impoverished town that she grew to appreciate. She is taken from a world where any movement is groundbreaking to a palace where you can either hunt or be hunted and “cutthroat” is everyone’s favorite word.
Mare’s reaction to change is what drives the plot. When Aveyard skillfully adds a new facet to the situation, Mare copes or flees or sometimes does a little bit of both. She is representative of what we would do in these situations, what we would do for the people back home watching on their televisions and wishing us luck. She represents the ties that we always have to the places from where we came, the places and the people that forced us to grow roots out of necessity or out of desire. Mare teaches us that we are no more than an accumulation of our experiences and, no matter what the world tries to turn us into, we simply are who we are.