As I read this book the same thought kept coming to my mind: this should be a movie. It turns out the author Victoria Aveyard is first and foremost a screenwriter and this was actually her first novel. Loaded with action and drama, it follows a similar pattern to many of the popular movies based on teen book series that have been trending recently. I expect we will be writing a movie review on Red Queen in the near future.
It is unavoidable to compare Red Queen to other popular series like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Fifth Wave. Like these other bestsellers, Mare, the protagonist of Red Queen starts off seemingly as a nobody, and then suddenly is the only person who can save the world from tyranny. In the typical dystopian manner, this story features a gross imbalance of human rights, with the privileged few trampling over the commoners. Rather than having a sci-fi influenced dystopian world, this one is primarily fantasy.
In this world, there is one thing that differentiates the privileged and the oppressed-the color of their blood. The government is similar to a feudal system. The serfs have red blood, and the nobility silver. Those with silver blood have special abilities similar to the mutants in X-men. Some silvers have super-speed, some control fire, and some can turn invisible, while others can control people with just a thought. Even armed, it takes at least ten reds to take on an average silver. The powers that the silvers display make for a very entertaining read. When the characters of this story are dueling with lightning and superhuman strength, it makes abilities like shooting a gun or bow seem boring.
My only major complaint is that the book moves quite quickly. It is a popular teen-fiction novel so that is to be expected, but this book definitely moves way too fast at times. Especially towards the end there was a point when things moved so quickly that I had to backtrack and reread in order to follow.
The overarching theme of the book is the pervasiveness of betrayal. “Anyone can betray anyone” is by far the most used phrase in the book, and there was much betrayal indeed. Everyone is out for themselves. The entire silver nobility constantly engages in political banter as they are scheming to betray one another. Even Mare, our main character, is betrayed by some of her closest confidants. The pervasiveness of betrayal however is best seen in the heart of Mare herself. At the end of the day even she is willing to betray the trust of others in order to reach her personal goals.
The widespread betrayal portrayed in this book mirrors the pervasiveness of sin in our world. While watching the news one thing is for certain, not everything is happy and pleasant in the world. The world is filled with what some would call problems, but what the Bible calls sin. Scandal, tragedy, terrorism-these are the things that fill our headlines. However, that pervasiveness reveals itself best not in the breadth of its reach in the world, but in the depth of the human heart. As life goes on people are often surprised by what depth of sin they are capable of. We do the things we swore never to do and even betray the trust of those we love dearest. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Sin has been defined as many things. Grammatically it is often defined as “missing the mark”. Theologically it has been identified as pride, a lack of faith, a lack of love, and many other things. However I think betrayal also helps define the nature of sin. All sin is betrayal. When you sin against family, friend, or neighbor you are in a sense betraying them. Even more importantly, all sin is a betrayal against God. Even the original sin, Adam eating the forbidden fruit, was a deep betrayal. God created Adam, breathed life into him, gave him the world, work, and a wife. Most importantly, God gave himself to Adam in a perfect relationship between God and man. When Adam ate that forbidden fruit hoping to become like God himself, he revealed his heart. He felt he didn’t need God. He didn’t want God. In the end the only thing he could look to was his own interests. He betrayed God’s trust, love, and kindness.
Thank God that the second Adam, Jesus Christ, did not make the same mistake. At all times, Jesus honored his Father and sacrificed self-interest for the sake of others. If anyone ever knew what it felt like to be betrayed, it was Jesus. Among his twelve closest friends was the betrayer Judas who sold him out for some coin. With a kiss Judas marked Jesus to be beaten, humiliated, crucified, and killed. However it was through this ultimate betrayal that Jesus offers the ultimate salvation. Sin swung its most deadly betrayal at the Son of God only to find itself defeated. Jesus placed all the sin and betrayal of the world on himself so that when he died, he would take the power of sin down with him. Jesus didn’t stay dead. Death could not hold Him. He died so that we would die to sin. He rose so that we can rise and betray no more.