By Victoria Aveyard
Mare Barrow is a pickpocket, trying to help her family make ends meet until she is conscripted into the army. She will join her older brothers to serve in an unending war that crippled their father. She is a Red, one of the poor who serve the Silvers, the rich and powerful who run their society.
One evening she runs into a stranger who she thinks is a servant to aristocrats. He is kind to her even though he caught her stealing from him. Then Mare is summoned to court to become a royal servant herself.
The Reds bleed red and have no special powers. The Silvers bleed silver and have various powers, including telekinesis and the ability to invade minds. During a tournament in which aristocratic Silver girls compete for the hands of the two royal princes, Mare and the entire arena discover she’s different.
The scheming queen quickly concocts a story about Mare’s supposed past and brings her into the court that is filled with intrigue. She’s to marry the queen’s son, the younger prince, even though she’s often drawn to his older half-brother. There’s also her guilt over the harm she caused her sister and a childhood friend who may now be lost.
Aveyard combines a dystopian setting with court intrigue, fantasy elements, a strong heroine determined to help her friends and family, and boys who seem to lie when they tell the truth. The world-building in the first quarter is a bit slow but once Mare arrives at court, it’s nonstop action with a broad range of characters. Each character's motivations are integral to what they do, and make for rich, deep, compelling stories. This is a debut novel that is a completely engaging work.
©2015 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Review and reprinted with permission