Mare Barrow lives in a world where people are separated by blood type. Reds are people who have red blood and no supernatural powers. Silvers have silver blood and also powers that run in families. Reds live in the slums, and get an apprenticeship or are conscripted into the army at age 18. Silvers are in positions of authority such as police officers or the royalty, and they constantly rule over the Silvers in their lives of luxury.
Mare did not excel in her classes, never receiving an internship, and approaches her 18th birthday. She knows she will be conscripted, but has accepted this as a way of her life. Her fourteen year old sister is an exact opposite of her, an apprenticed seamstress who will eventually support the family with her business since the Silvers love their embroidery. Mare was unhappy with the hierarchy but since nothing had changed for 300 years, she thought that nothing ever would.
Kilorn was an orphan after his father died in the war and his mother abandoned him. He kept picking fights on the street with Mare, and she decided to feed him so that she would have someone more interesting to fight with. Now he is 18 years old and apprenticed to a fisherman. Everything is going well for him, however when his master dies he is going to be conscripted. Mare knows he is important to her, and that she is going to do everything in her power to keep him out of the army. After meeting with a shady organization called the Scarlet Guard, they agree to sneak him out for a hefty price.
After enlisting Gisa for her help, Mare goes into the Silver neighborhood to pickpocket. After the shady organization Scarlet Guard launches a Red terrorist attack and it is shown on the news, a riot breaks out and it is clear that they wont get the money. In a fit of desperation Gisa grabs the wallet, but the Silver has powers and traps them until the authorities arrive to punish the culprit. Gisa’s embroidering hand is broken, and Mare takes her home then runs away, knowing that she has destroyed her family.
While pickpocketing by a bar, she runs across a mysterious stranger that hears of her troubles and gives her a silver coin. The next day, she is taken by guards to the castle and given a job there. The noble families are having a ball where the oldest prince will “choose” his bride after all the girls show off their Silver talents. During one particular girl’s showing where she moved all the metal boxes where people sat around the arena, Mare falls onto the the electric barrier. But instead of being fried, her clothes burn as she sits their absorbing the electricity. The royal guards lock her away as they decide what to do with a Red that presents Silver skills.
Mare barrow is a strong female lead who struggles under the stresses of the world she lives in. She cares deeply for her family and for people in need, shown in how quick she was to feed the orphan Kilorn. Throughout the beginning of the book she faces adversity because of her blood, but by putting her hope in Gisa she does not fear anything. But when the hope is gone, she breaks down and runs away instead of staying to try to help her family. This attitude plagues the first quarter of the book for me, however after she is separated from her family in her job she truly grows as a character.
Gisa was one of the most responsible characters in the book, although one of the youngest at 14 years old. She suffered daily as she was the only one in her family who had truly seen how selfishly the Silvers lived because she worked for them. However, she carried the weight faithfully on her shoulders knowing that she would protect her family, and the weight crushed her when her hand was crushed. Her character seemed to disappear rather than blossom, albeit understandably.
Kilorn irritated me throughout the book. When Mare tried to save him by getting the money for him to escape with the Scarlet Guard, he simply gave up leaving the job to Mare and Gisa. And even when Mare continues to try to help him in other parts of the book, he refuses her help trying to convince her that he was self sufficient. Eventually it just came off as rude as he simply wanted to “be the man” all the time instead of simply accepting her help and trying to return the favor later on.
I enjoyed this book although I believe that the middle and end were far more enjoyable than the beginning. Mare did not come off as irritatingly stubborn at any time, she knew when she had to stay quiet and when it was time to fight back. The book did not annoyingly harp on romance, but I am afraid that it could go in that direction in the future books. The end of the book was, quite surprising, and I enjoyed it immensely, although it seemed a bit rushed. I hope that Victoria Aveyard keeps up the good work in the future and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.
Overall Rating: 4/5