War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

Rise with the Dawn (Book 4 of the Red Queen Series)

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Victoria Aveyard must be feeling very pleased with her efforts of the past few years…if she’s not, I urge her to check her bank account. She should be pleased, not because of anything to do with cash reserves (that was just a throw-away line) but because she has captured huge chunks of the YA market with her Red Queen series of novels, and through their success established the Aveyard Empire.

To comment on Book 4: War Storm with any hope of success a reviewer needs to bring up the factual history from earlier books in the series. The audience is more than likely made up of fans who know all I am about to reveal. The fans will know at once that I have revealed little more than the bare bones of the plot to this point. Those readers who are not fans will find the revealed events completely inadequate and will no doubt borrow or buy the earlier volumes. All I am prepared to say at this point is to confirm Victoria Aveyard as a truly amazing writer.

Aveyard describes a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. But then she begins working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power that could easily end Silver dominion over the Reds: for Mare can draw upon the heavens and conjure up lightning to do her bidding.

In a world of betrayal and lies, and fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers declare her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Scarlet (Red?) Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

Making her escape from the prince and friend who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind. She sets out on a recruiting drive, but then discovers that she is at grave risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. Unhappy and unsure, Mare becomes a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal, a boy named Maven.

Now a king, Maven continues weaving his web in an attempt to maintain control over his country – and his prisoner. Meanwhile, the remnants of the Red Rebellion continue organizing and expanding. As they prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows, Cal, Maven’s older brother focuses his attention on getting Mare back.

Cal’s powerful Silver allies, alongside Mare and the Scarlet Guard, prove a formidable force. But Maven is driven by an obsession so deep, he will stop at nothing to have Mare as his own again, even if it means demolishing everything – and everyone – in his path.

This is the point at which War Storm continues the story.

War Storm does not disappoint. The story dies not diverge from the direction that was followed through Books 1 to 3. It unfolds logically until the final pages. The love stories are developed fully and played out to a sensible, realistic conclusion. It feels strange to report that there are love stories in a world built on hate and the attempted imposition of one person’s will on others. The most notable love story is that of Cal and Mare. Shakespeare’s Shrew has nothing on this pair, who take four large volumes to realise that loving means giving of oneself unreservedly. The number of false barriers and restrictions or parameters within which love is offered is frustrating to say the least. Even then one has to sacrifice an awful lot before the other can admit to love. Much more interesting is the relationship between Evangeline and Elane. Having to hide her affections for another woman from her scumbag father and very bit as hateful mother, Evangeline never fails to rise above the occasion. She is one of the great characters in the book.

Maven as the supreme villain never ever puts in anything but a stellar performance. He is unashamedly evil and his development through the four books is consistent. The reader is in no doubt that Maven is untrustworthy, sly, vicious and at most times murderous. His treatment of Mare whom he loves but cannot have is inspirational writing. His brother, by comparison, is vacillating and weak, but has the redeeming grace of not giving up on his villainous sibling when everybody else recognizes him for the murderer he is. There’s a little off-balance in this respect. Cal is a leader of men but his almost fatal flaw, his refusal to believe that Maven is no longer the brother he knew, puts others as well as himself at risk.

Victoria Aveyard’s imagination is vast. Its portrayal on paper is a masterpiece of the narrator’s craft. Shapeshifters, downright scary mind sifters, the Lakeland queen and princess who can call on water to drown whole armies, the vast numbers of characters with deadly skills that only they can master, Silent Stone…the panorama is breathtaking. Her landscapes and water worlds are real in the readers’ minds who never for a moment can put the books aside as just fiction, something made up.

This series was begun by a woman of twenty-four who had not long graduated with a creative writing degree from a major American university. This is a slip of a girl who slays giants. She will light up the literary world again and again.

War Storm

(2018)

By Victoria Aveyard

Orion/Hachette

ISBN: 978-1-4091-7880-4

$19.99; 672pp

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