Thursday, February 19, 2015

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

"In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don't believe that.
The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind..."
Red Queen tells of a world divided by blood, between Silvers and Reds. Silver blood gives the Silvers special abilities. They can read minds, control people, move metal, control fire or water, or do one of many other extraordinary things. Because of these powers, they rule over the Reds. The purpose of Reds is to serve the Silvers. Silvers get the best of life, while the Reds struggle just to survive. When they reach the age of 17, if they aren't apprenticed, Reds are sent off to fight in the endless war the country is waging to gain more territory.

Mare Barrow is a Red who hates Silvers, and expresses that sentiment often. Seriously, it gets annoying. To help her family, she often steals from the rich, though her parents and sister wish she would stop. Her three older brother are already off at war, and she will follow on her next birthday. The great hope of the Barrow family is her younger sister, Gisa. Gisa creates beautiful embroideries, and will likely own a successful shop once she finishes her apprenticeship. Then she will be able to provide jobs to save her siblings from the war.

Mare's best friend, Kilorn, the Gale to her Katniss, was on track to become a fisherman. Unexpectedly, his mentor dies. Mare is desperate to keep Kilorn from being conscripted, so she seeks help from acquaintances who bought her stolen goods. A young woman named Marley offers to help them disappear...for a very high price. The sisters come up with a plan to steal enough money, but are interrupted by an attack from a group called the Red Guard. As a last ditch effort, Gisa attempts to pick a man's pocket, gets caught, and has her hand smashed by a guard. The family's only hope is now destroyed.

Unable to face her parents, a guilty Mare runs off to a tavern. She eventually tries to steal from a young man. He catches her and they start to talk. Soon, she is telling him all about her misfortunes, from Kilorn's conscription to her sister's broken hand. The next day, she is offered a job serving at the royal palace.

Despite her dislike for Silvers, Mare throws herself into her new job. She figures that the boy she met was another servant, and she is thankful to be able to provide for her family. The palace is holding a big event that day, the Queenstrial. The daughters of the top Silver families demonstrate their skills for a chance to marry the heir to the throne and one day become Queen. This is when Mare finds out that the young man who helped her get a job is the heir apparent, Prince Cal. Soon after, she discovers something even more amazing.

While serving drinks, Mare falls into the arena. She actually falls through an electrified barrier that should have killed her. After that, she ends up throwing lightning bolts around. Reds like her aren't supposed to have powers. Too many people saw her to just kill her. What they need is a good lie.

"I cannot slip. Not now, not ever. I'm one of them. I'm special.I'm an accident. I'm a lie. And my life depends on maintaining that illusion..."

Mare Barrow becomes Lady Mareena Titanos, long-lost daughter of a respected Silver family. She is engaged to the younger son, Prince Maven (Though she obviously has a thing for Cal). Her very life and the lives of her family depend on her ability to convince everyone that she is a Silver. If that isn't difficult enough, there is also the added challenge of a palace full of possible enemies. Things are further complicated when Mare enlists with the Red Guard to work against the Silvers and royal family on the inside. She grows close with Cal, then with Maven, and also with her tutor Julian. The recurring theme of the book is: "Anyone can betray anyone," and believe me, there is some major betrayal.

This was one of those books that I wasn't into at first, then I kept seeing it around the web, and suddenly I absolutely had to read it. It was pretty good, but a smidge disappointing. Mare really annoyed me in the beginning. I kept thinking of her as Katniss Everdeen mixed with an idealistic college freshman. She just sees things so black and white, where the Silvers are only the enemy. I felt badly because I constantly felt the need to tell our poor, oppressed heroine to shut up about the Silvers. By the end, I did feel a great deal of fondness for her, so she does grow on you. Despite predicting that it would happen, I was very upset by the big plot twist. So very upset, like almost crying while waiting for a table at Olive Garden upset. Sometimes you just know something will end a certain way, but then you think that maybe it will flip your expectations and not end that way, but then it does end that way and you get really upset because you don't want that ending at you know what I mean? Your experience may differ, but I thought Red Queen was good, but not as great as I was hoping. I'm still interested to see what happens in the second book, as we are left with some major plot developments that could be very exciting.

I received my copy of Red Queen from Edelweiss, courtesy of Orion. It's available for purchase now.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

My review of the first book in this series, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, is here.

In Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, River came to Violet's door to answer an advertisement seeking a boarder. He was handsome and rich, but also scary. River has the ability to make other people see things and do things, what they call his glow. While he seems like he has good intentions, some of the things that River does with his glow are pretty bad. Things like making a man cut his own throat. The man had been abusing his young son, but what River did isn't exactly good either. At the end of the book, we find out that River and his brother Neely have a half-brother in town named Brodie. A lot of the terrible things that they attributed to River were really Brodie. He ended up confronting River and cutting Violet's wrists. They stabbed him, but Brodie got away. River chases after him, but still hopes to return to Violet some day.

Now, it's been a long time since either Violet or Neely have heard from River. They have been listening to a late night radio show where people around the country call in with strange paranormal happenings. One night, they hear about a tiny mountain town where a red-haired boy has been visiting young girls in their bedrooms. It sounds like Brodie, so Violet, her brother Luke, Neely, and their neighbor Sunshine pack up to investigate. They find a town where the people are on edge, willing to lynch a young boy who has lived in the town for years. Violet and company rescue the boy and plan to take him back to the Citizen Kane. Then they decide to split up. Luke and Sunshine head home. Violet, Neely, and the boy head for a small island where they reported sightings of a mad sea king.

Once they get there, they find River, but he isn't the same River. He has gone mad from his powers, and the whole thing is very sad. Neely loves Violet and Violet loves Neely, but Violet also still loves River, but not what River does. The whole time, there is still the question of where Brodie is and what he is planning. It's complicated, you guys.

Between the Spark and the Burn was almost as good as Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The writing was just as dreamy, but I wanted more of Violet and River. The conclusion to the series bummed me out a little, but it was also sort of beautiful in its way.

I received my copy of Between the Spark and the Burn from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dial. It's available for purchase now.