I picked up Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen five years ago because as soon as I saw the crown on the cover, I wanted to know the woman behind the coronation. The ornate peaks of silver metal are covered with oozing drips of metallic red blood. My thoughts immediately jumped to Alice in Wonderland and the Red Queen who has famously rolled so many heads. I was excited by what I presumed was the tale behind the blood thirsty monarch’s red roses, but then I opened to the front flap.
The red queen crown | via the rider chronicle
Red. Silver elite. Blood. Superhuman abilities. Scarlet Guard. Rebellion.
My excitement grew tenfold as I realized my mistake. It wasn’t a book about Wonderland; it was a book about a 17-year-old girl leading an uprising in a blood divided world. I tore through the 400 pages in less than two days and started counting down to the inevitable sequel. Five years later, I wish I could read the four books in the Red Queen series for the first time all over again. Thankfully, Aveyard seemed to have known that her YA fantasy fans would want more. She released Broken Throne, a short story collection based in the same world, a year after the final book was published. It’s perfect for anyone like me who isn’t quite ready yet to move on from the Red Queen’s fantastical world and all the characters who live within it.
The series centers around Mare Barrow, a teenage Red from a big family who got her start as a thief in her rural village of the Stilts. Red Queen sets up the blood-driven caste system that is Mare’s reality. The regal Silvers preside over the Kingdom of Norta, often using their superhuman abilities to keep Reds in line—and forcibly enlisted in a war no one wants to fight. No Red has ever gotten to share in the arsenal of Silver superpowers. That is, until Mare learns she can wield a lightning bolt better than Zeus ever did.
Mare’s powers unlock a world of opportunity as she discreetly joins the ranks of the rebel forces known as the Scarlet Guard, all while holding the seat she is awarded in Silver Court in an effort to conceal the Red pumping through her veins. Glass Sword, King’s Cage, and War Storm follow Mare as she walks a very thin line between the Red and Silver societies and struggles to figure out exactly where she fits in amongst the chaos. There’s heart-eyes-inducing romance, shattering heartbreak, thrilling battle scenes, sarcastic humor, and incredible worldbuilding—not to mention unbeatable fashion on the part of the Silvers. Incorporating your superhuman abilities into your regal attire so everything you wear can double as a weapon? Brilliant. Sign me up for more.
Broken Throne features five novellas from various perspectives, maps of the reimagined North American continent, exclusive flags, and journal entries tracing the development of the blood divide. The first novella, ‘Queen Song,’ details the life and tragic death of Queen Coriane. She keeps a secret diary to recount her experience as the first wife of King Tiberias and subject of immense Silver scrutiny, as well as reflect on the birth of her son Cal. By the time you finish reading, this song is going to make your chest ache. ‘Steel Scars’ introduces Captain Farley of the Scarlet Guard. This novella further confirms that if you ever need to call someone for a fight, she should be the first name in your contacts. While traveling through Norta and sowing the seeds of rebellion, Farley meets Shade Barrow. Her life is forever changed. ‘World Behind’ alternates viewpoints between Lyrisa and Ashe, a Silver princess on the run from her horror of a betrothed and the riverman tasked with getting her to safety.
Fashion in the silver houses | via Epic Reads
Iron Heart captures everything I love most about the Red Queen series, including my favorite character: Evangeline Samos. When I first met her in Red Queen, I was taken aback by how cruel she was. Yes, her superhuman abilities include weaponizing any and all metal around her with the ease of snapped fingers, but that didn’t mean she had to be as cold as the metal shards she carries. She’s also betrothed to Cal Calore, who’s next in line for the Nortan throne. Amazing power AND a guaranteed crown…seems like a good deal, right? It would’ve been, had it not required Evangeline to give up any chance she has to fully be with her love, Elane Haven. As the series progresses, so does Evangeline. Her anger begins to make sense, her fears become justifiable, and her actions overwhelmingly point back to one thing: protecting those she cares about.
It was easy to become invested in her character arc because I could identify with her experience. It’s painful living in a world that doesn’t want you to openly be yourself. At the same time, I appreciate the fact that Aveyard doesn’t make the entirety of Evangeline’s storyline about being gay. Evangeline grows and develops in multiple facets of her identity, just like we all do when we’re trying to find our place in life. All of those facets are treated with equal importance and come together to make up who she is: a sarcastic, quick witted, and highly-trained warrior who’s committed to seeking justice and happens to have a soft spot for the woman who sees and loves her for her. Throughout every book, I found myself standing with Evangeline and hoping that she’d use those magnetron abilities to fight her way through it all. ‘Iron Heart’ alternates between Evangeline and Elane as they finally arrive at their well-deserved happy ending. Thank you, Victoria Aveyard, for giving the LGBTQIA+ community a voice in the Red Queen world and creating this tremendous character in the process.
Evangeline samos fanart | via Melanie Bourgeois
The final two novellas, ‘Fire Light’ and ‘Fare Well,’ are where everything comes to a close. Mare, Cal, and their allies sift through the losses and triumphs of the war that spans all four books; they arrive at a chance for a new future. One they never could’ve imagined. Every series has to meet its end, and Aveyard does this one beautifully with Broken Throne. However, I wish the Red Queen series could be the one exception. There’s so much more I want to know, so many characters I want more time with, and a future I’d love to witness. It’s hard to let go, so I’ll leave my goodbye as this: “rise, red as the dawn.”