Oh conflicted Mare Barrow, power-hungry and deceiving Maven, and crazy Shakespearean Queen Elara….. how I’ve been waiting for your return!
Aveyard picks up right where our beloved rebels within the Scarlet Guard left off – rescuing Mare and taking Cal prisoner – but the newly crowned KING Maven is on their tails with the Silver army and declaring Cal a murderous traitor and Mare an enemy to be killed. Maven no longer hides his power hungry persona or distain for the Reds and now, with the crown, he holds the power to strengthen the attack on the Reds. Since he also knows that Mare is not the only Red with powers he wants to capture any powerful Newbloods as well as the Scarlet Guard. Speaking of the Scarlet Guard, it is stronger and smarter than Mare realized and Farley, although strong and a good leader, is not the leader at all.
Like previous series, this second installment is full of action and the plot progresses from the very beginning. The second is often my favorite of series from titles like Catching Fire and The Rose Society and this one continues that favoritism.
Our strong and conflicting characters now realize they must rely on one another as Mare, Captain Fairley, Cal, and Shade break away from one group of captors and into the clutches of another. It seems Maven’s power has stretched through the land showing the false story he created of Cal’s treachery in manipulating the truth for his gain. With the lists of Newbloods (the same list Maven is using to kill Reds with power), the crew flies among villages to try and build an army of Reds with power against Maven and the silvers. Mare struggles with no longer being the Mare from the Barrows, nor the pretend Silver of the palace. As she finds the rebellion leader within her, she struggles with what she has lost of her home-life, but also benefiting from traits and skills she learned from the Silvers. How can she find her true self when her drive for justice contradicts her ideals? Was her time with the Silvers actually helpful to the leader she has become?
“To rise. And rise alone.” It echoes like the howl of a wolf. “I see you as you could become, no longer the lightning, but the storm. The storm that will swallow the world entirely” (306)
As Mare and team gather more Newbloods, she hears others are being killed and tortured by Elara’s mind control and are even facing fighting for the Silvers. Mare takes on the pressure of leadership and fear takes its toll on Mare. As her confidence and pride succumbs to grief and guilt, she realizes all too late that a leader can still trust the people near her. With plans of an attack and a path of justice, she is caught off guard and her future is uncertain once she reunites with Maven. It’s still a battle between the Scarlet Guard and the Silvers, the difference now is that Mare is willing to risk herself to protect those she loves – even at the cost of herself.
“If I am a sword, I am a sword made of glass, and I feel myself beginning to shatter” (250)
As with any political struggle and a sudden rise to fame, Mare has soon lost the closeness of her inner circle as she has made decisions they do not believe were right nor necessary. Only when a trusted person returns to her life does Mare realize how she can still maintain some of her ideals and values she had in the Burrow even as she takes on a new role with command in the Scarlet Guard. She is told
“No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. They become that way, through choice and circumstance. The latter you cannot control, but the former…” (411)
The sequel ends with Mare in the lowest place she could find herself and it appears the Scarlet Guard cannot help. Oh, and of course the side plot of Maven’s to bring down the Reds and Newbloods…. the 5,000 teenagers being sent to battle that now are without Mare’s rescue. Who will win the next power struggle between the Silvers and the Scarlet Guard? Will the Newbloods continue to be accepted and protected by the Scarlet Guard or will Maven achieve his genocide of these Reds with power? Then there’s Mare herself, now at full control of her enemies.
The series continues with Book 3 and Book 4, both untitled. But to quench your thirst, Aveyard has created two prequels that are already published:
Queen Song (The Red Queen #0.1) and Steel Scars (The Red Queen #0.2) which give us background to the first queen, Queen Coriane and Fairley, respectively. A continuation of strong female characters I’m sure.