I was so very disappointed when this book ended. I want the sequel already.
So why did I like this book so much? First off, it was an original take on the pseudo fantasy dystopian world, with it’s Reds (who seem to be regular humans) and Silvers (who are enhanced humans with special “abilities” who also happen to bleed silver) ruling over them and generally treating them like dirt, and it’s ongoing war with the surrounding Silver-run kingdoms, with the Reds as conscripted cannon fodder. The main character is, of course, a Red. Her name is Mare Barrow, and aside from picking pockets and other assorted thievery, she doesn’t have a whole lot of marketable skills. Which means that, in the absence of a trade apprenticeship, she is going to have to go serve in the army, just like her brothers before her, and unlike her talented little sister the seamstress.
Mare can accept her own fate, but when her best friend loses his apprenticeship suddenly and is going to be sent off die in the trenches as well, she is determined to find a way to save him. It would seem that smuggling him out of town with the mysterious Scarlet Guard is the only way, but it is going to cost her dearly. With the help of her sister, she gets into the summer capital of the ruling family intent on stealing enough to pay the fee, only to get caught in rioting when the Scarlet Guard blows up a building in the nation’s capital, making their mark as a group of Red terrorists/freedom-fighters intent on freeing the Reds from Silver dominance through violence. In an escalating series of incidents, Mare gets out, but empty handed and with an injured sister, only to get herself into trouble getting caught that same night trying to pick someone’s pocket. Instead of turning her in, however, the stranger walks her home, and then gets her a job working in the palace as a servant. And so it begins. In a crazy twist of fate, right after finding out that the stranger was actually the Silver prince, an accident that should have killed Mare instead reveals that she, unlike any other Red before, also has an “ability”, and it rivals anything the Silvers possess. Forced by the publicity of the event to keep her alive, the Royal family decide that the best way to keep her under control is to marry her off to one of the princes.
The story is kind of like a messed up, sci-fi / fantasy version of Cinderella, but the royals are not the desirable ones in the fairy tales, and the “princess” is a smart-mouthed thief. I loved it. 🙂