I picked this up after my roommate brought it home to re-read. Shoutout to her for having great taste in books, and constantly recommending YA lit for me to review. You are a doll and I’m so grateful.
In this debut novel by Victoria Aveyard, the world is divided by blood: Silver of the godlike, terrifyingly powerful elite class, and Red of the poverty-ridden ungifted commoners. Mare Barrow was born and raised Red – until a chance encounter with a mysterious young man leads her to end up in the Silver Palace, where she discovers the impossible: despite her blood, she possesses powers of her very own, unlike anything Red or Silver has ever seen before.
The idea was interesting, and it definitely wasn’t as forgiving as other dystopian novels I’ve seen. However, a good concept cannot take away two dimensional characters, a formulaic plot, and a mediocre delivery. Despite being a light and entertaining read, I found myself yawning through even the most brutal action scenes. I simply didn’t feel as invested in the plot as I expected myself to be. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad book – just not quite up to the hype, in my opinion.
What I liked: How BRUTAL this was. There is no hesitation here, and people die with no remorse on the killer’s part. The action scenes are captivating for how in-depth they go, and how meticulously orchestrated the violence is on both sides of the playing field. Usually it takes me a while to get into books like this, but I had the exact opposite problem: I got really into the first 100 pages or so, and then it dropped off for me. That first little bit was great, though! The clever and underhanded way that we discovered Mare’s powers was so cool. I actually had to read it over twice to realize that it was foreshadowing. Her family was awesome, with a relatable dynamic that popped up in Cal & Maven’s family a short while later. There were some genuinely likable characters, from Gisa to Julian, that only got a short amount of book time yet completely stole the show for me. I just wish we got to see more of these great things, instead of…
All these things I didn’t like: Mare. It took me 62 pages to put her on my “Annoying Protagonists” shelf. The way other characters and ideas kept popping up like prairie dogs, and then leaving as soon as we had to draw the focus back onto the Red Guard and their terrible plans, or Maven being broody yet perfect for her, or Evangeline being a brat, or some other ridiculously trivial thing. What happened to the teacher that was supposed to groom her into a lady? She had ONE CLASS, and then she just knew how to do everything? What about what’s-his-name, the guard she “befriends”? She uses him, and then poof! He’s gone. I don’t even remember his name because of how quickly he disappeared from relevance in this book. And then the constant repeating of “anyone can betray anyone,” which naturally our illustrious MC completely ignores, no matter how often she thinks it or how clearly the neon lights shine in her face that she is walking into a trap. I’m pretty sure I saw the twist ending coming from page 107. It was too formulaic to not see, and not original enough to hold my attention anyway. Should I even bother mentioning the love…quadrilateral? What is with the brother against brother romance? Then you throw Kilorn in there as a last-ditch effort? (Seriously. He makes one comment. One comment. It goes downhill from there.)
Farley scoffs. “You want me to pin my entire operation, the entire revolution, on some teenaged love story? I can’t believe this.”
Across the table, a strange look crosses Kilorn’s face. When Farley turns to him, looking for some kind of support, she finds none.
“I can,” he whispers, his eyes never leaving my face.
I highly believe that Victoria Aveyard has potential, but I can’t say the same for any of the characters in this book. The main characters grated on my nerves too much for me to really care what happened to them by the end. If you enjoyed this book, that’s really great! I hope the sequel turns out to be awesome and fun. I personally won’t be following her as closely as other upcoming authors. I would recommend this book for fans of Legend by Marie Lu, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, and anyone who enjoys this particular brand of YA dystopia/fantasy.