The world is ruled by Silvers, with their shining blood and abilities. The Red have no special powers are seen as lesser. They are relegated to perpetual poverty, while the Silbers live lives of luxury. But what happens when a Red manifests abilities in an arena filled with noble Silvers? They make her a future princess of course, but it’s not the fairy tale it sounds like.
Mare is thrust into a world she never wished for and doesn’t fit into. She is given no choice but to accept. There is much to learn about her abilities and how to control them. The one demand she made was to ensure the safety and well-being of her family. Her brothers are called home from the war, but not soon enough to save all of them. (view spoiler) This pushes Mare over the edge and she joins the rebel group, the Scarlet Guard.
It’s intriguing to learn what each person has the ability to do. The control over water, manipulation of light, healing, mind-reading and more. But it’s very off-putting and juvenile when the author refers to them as greenies or telkies. It sounds more like a two-year-old naming their stuffed bear Brownie or Fluffy than an author giving life to special abilities.
The world is not our own, so it would be nice to learn more about it. Unfortunately, Mare is not very learned and we must view the world through her lens. It would be fascinating to be given a history, geography and culture lesson from Julian in novella form. What does their domain look like? What about the surrounding kingdoms, their rulers, ruling abilities and geography? How did these new borders come to be? (It is mentioned that the borders were not always the way they are currently.) Overall, the world building is pretty good but could be improved (which it does later in the book.) The physical descriptions of the towns the royals pass on their way to the palace late in the story are good and allow the reader to immese themselves in the world more fully.
The princes are, unsurprisingly good people despite the harshness of the King and Queen. (view spoiler) The future love interest(s) must be liked by the reader. Mare herself is harsh and quick-tempered by likable nonetheless. Though she has no choice in her future, she assures her family’s well-being and that shows she has a good heart.
Of course, our protagonist catches the attention of not just one but two princes. The older and future King, Cal, wants to be a good ruler so he secretly ventures out in public to learn and experience his people outside the reports of advisors. He even decides to send a group of Silver soldiers to the front line and chooses to lead them. It may win the war, but it could also kill him. The younger, forever shadowed brother Maven believes that Reds and Silvers are equals. He even joins the Scarlet Guard to help propel change and spark a revolution.
Anyone can betray anyone.
The Scarlet Guard secrets Maven and Mare out of a play and transports them to another town just to have a conversation. Clearly the travel and discussion would take a significant amount of time and yet no one wonders where they are. The return trip and the play ending are just completely skipped. It was abrupt and didn’t seem well-thought out.
The book ends with betrayal and bloodshed. But it also ends with a promise and the hope that not all is lost. It makes me want to begin the next book immeiate. Highly recommended book to fans of YA novels with good world building and character development that deal with monarchical rule and upheavals as well as people with special abilities.