Red Queen was one of my favorite books of 2015, so while I was very excited to finally get my hands on its sequel, Glass Sword, I was afraid that it would not live up to the awesomeness of its predecessor. Fortunately, what I love most about Red Queen–its rich world-building, dynamic characters, high-stakes adventure and romance, and plot twists and turns that never lose their punch (even after multiple reads)–continues in Glass Sword, but with an even more elaborate and expansive setting, cast of characters, and storyline.
I don’t want to risk spoiling the plot of Red Queen and Glass Sword in case you haven’t read them yet; rather, I want to focus on the number one lesson that the protagonist, Mare Barrow, learned in Red Queen–anyone can betray anyone–and the effect this devastating truth has on her character and purpose.
After discovering she’s not the only gifted Red (newblood), Mare enters a deadly race against her enemies to find and recruit an army of newbloods who will join the Red rebels (the Scarlet Guard) in their fight against their evil Silver oppressors. This means Mare’s a hero, right?
Yes, and no. Motivated by revenge, and consumed with heartbreak, alienation and a deep-rooted hatred for Silvers in general, how will Mare not become as cruel and dangerous as her enemies? How will betrayal and treachery not turn her into the kind of monster she is fighting against?
What I love most about Aveyard’s series is that it explores the liminal space between heroism and villainy in a way that reminds me of another favorite series of mine: Marie Lu’s The Young Elites. A few months ago I wrote about Adelina Amouteru, the gifted hero turned villain, who becomes increasingly treacherous in The Rose Society. In that post, I commended Adelina’s successful evolution into a villain. Rather than trying to overcome her negative traits (fear, anger, stubbornness, manipulation, hatred, vengeance, and narcissism), Adelina recognizes that they make her a more formidable opponent. Motivated by revenge and destruction, not compassion, love and heroism, Adelina would rather be everyone’s adversary than risk being anyone’s victim.
Similarly, Mare must demonstrate her negative traits in order to become a more powerful opponent. She cannot lead a revolt and defeat her enemies with kindness and mercy. She will not be a victim. Not again. While Mare isn’t as villainous as Adelina in her quest for revenge–she still feels love, compassion, loyalty, and guilt–Mare is determined to kill her enemies. But at what cost?