On May 15, 2018, Victoria Aveyard released the final book of her best selling Red Queen series. With her final installment, Victoria Aveyard ushered in an end to an era with her novel War Storm. War Storm is a roller-coaster of emotions, leaving the audience shaken to the core. However, being three novels deep into this series, there are probably some major things you’ve forgotten from the last book. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. To help you all out, let’s review the last installment of the Red Queen series, King’s Cage, in all it’s angsty, depressing glory. After that, we’ll dive into the wondrous mess that was War Storm.
King’s Cage began where Glass Sword left off: Mare Barrow, our brave warrior princess, has surrendered to King Maven Calore in exchange for the safety of her brother Bree, best friend Kilron, somewhat of a frenemy Farley, and her…boyfriend/lover/sometimes archenemy Cal.
Mare spends over the first half of the book a prisoner at castle Whitfire, where she is imprisoned with monocles of Silent Stone 24/7. Silent Stone effectively mutes any powers one possesses, which is incredibly agonizing. By the middle of the book, Mare has been without her lightning powers for over six months.
Back at the Scarlet Guard, Cal works tirelessly to save Mare, even sending Nanny in undercover to Maven’s court. However, as a newblood is showing off her unique powers to his highness with Mare present, she outs Nanny as an imposter. Her cover blown, Nanny bites into a cyanide pill, declaring “Long Live Tiberias The Seventh” with her dying breath. At this, the rivalry between King Maven and his brother Cal grows even more.
Previously set to marry Evangeline Samos, King Maven travels to the Lakelands and finds himself a new bride: Iris. A nymph, who controls water, the marriage between Maven and Iris unites their kingdoms, forming a strong alliance between the two kingdoms. Unbeknownst to Maven, the engagement forms a rift between himself and his “allies”, the Samos family.
It is at the wedding between Maven and Iris when Cal and the Scarlet Guard attack, determined to save Mare. Caught mid-escape, Mare is helpless as she is dragged through the castle corridors by none other than Evangeline Samos, accompanied by four Arven guards and a healer. Things get even more complicated when Evangeline, the cold, heartless, bitch of a betrothed, murders the Arven guards, leaving her alone with Mare. In a last-ditch effort, which we will soon find out is anything but spontaneous improvisation, Evangeline promises to free Mare on one condition: that the Scarlet Guard, and Mare herself, spare her brother Ptolemus.
Lest you forget, Ptolemus Samos is the man who murdered Mare’s closest brother, Shade. Mare hesitantly accepts Evangeline’s terms, which we soon find out was a plot drafted by Cal himself in his own bargain made to his grandmother, who convinced Evangeline to release Mare in the chaos of battle. Evangeline’s own terms involving Ptolemus turned out to be icing on a royally complicated, and rather bloody, layer cake (pun intended).
And it doesn’t end there. Once freed, Mare struggles to find her Scarlett Guard compatriots and finds herself encountering a whisper. Samson Merandus controls Cal, the man she loves and has not seen in six whole months. Hopping from Mare’s mind to Cal’s, an agonizing battle ensues as we read the inner thoughts of two lost lovers forced to fight each other until near death. However, as Marecal always do, they overpower the whisper by somehow working together, even when their minds are beaten and battered by one of the most powerful whispers in Norta. Did someone say endgame? God, we hope so.
They transport aboard a ship in a rather painful memory inducing teleport trip. Mare and Cal reunite in a moment that Red Queen fans had been waiting for for months.
All of this leads to a gruesome final battle at Crovium, the showdown between Maven and the two people he used to love. The battle is long and hard, leading to the temporary defeat of Maven’s armies, temporary being the key word here. Mare and Cal must also work to solidify the shaky alliances they formed between the Scarlet Guard and the Samos family.
For the alliance to stick, there is one thing that must happen: Cal must become King. In doing so, he must also marry Evangeline Samos. Come full circle, anyone?
Not only does Evangeline not wish to marry Cal, but she begs for Mare to save her. Though silently, she pleads for Mare to change Cal’s mind. However, Cal was always destined to be king; and when given the choice between Mare and the crown, he chooses the crown.
War Strom did not disappoint. As final installments go, I couldn’t have been happier with the closure we were given on so many fronts. War Storm featured insights into characters we hadn’t seen before, one of those being Maven himself. The POV changes drastically affected how the audience understands Maven, looking deep into the mind of our very own self-proclaimed sociopath.
Aveyard’s development of Mare as a character shines in this book, featuring so many moments that made my heart fill with pride for our little lightning girl. Her strength and confidence in herself are clear through the choices she makes throughout the book, especially regarding Cal. If there’s one thing Aveyard can do, its write a magnificently stubborn, yet loveable, lead.
War Storm features a multitude of powerful scenes that are a testament to just how amazing a writer Victoria Aveyard is. Somehow, she always exceeds expectation and nails confrontations every.damn.time. For instance, the very first interaction between Mare, Cal, and Maven does not take place during the rage of battle, but the comfort of their respective homes.
With the help of a few very dedicated newbloods, Mare manages to speak to Maven through Ibrahim and Rash. The brothers’ connection, allowing each other to basically share senses, facilitates a must needed conversation between Mare and Maven. Cal joins eventually, leading to an emotional confrontation.
War Storm is a shocking, satisfying, electrifying, and downright amazing installment of the Red Queen series. Victoria Aveyard simply deserves all the awards for making us absolutely fall in love with these characters. However, there is so much in the 657 pages that would need to be dissected. From the development of the relationship between Mare and Farley, Iris’s betrayal from her husband, Kilorn and Cameron, Evangeline’s complicated relationship with Mare and the raging battles that ensue, there is so much to unpack. So, to keep things relatively short, let’s digest specific aspects of the book.
One of the most surprising characters we learn to love happens to be Evangeline Samos. Though her actions in the final book do nothing to excuse everything she’s done, her character has come such a long way since Red Queen.
The first book introduced Evangeline as a bride for Tiberias Calore, raised to fill the role of the Queen of Norta. Since her childhood, she had known no other destiny than this. However, through the books, Evangeline learns that true power isn’t what she wants. Not really. Beginning the series as a power-hungry and selfish betrothed, Evangeline comes to discover that what she really desires is freedom; freedom from her family, from her marriage, and from her predetermined destiny.
What is perhaps even more surprising about Evangeline’s development is her growing respect for Mare. Though she would never admit it herself, Mare pushed Evangeline to change her fate, to take charge of the parts of her life she wants to change. In moments throughout her narration, Evangeline notes Mare’s strength, despite all she has been put through. It is through these little moments, and her pushes toward a Marecal reunion, that Evangeline becomes the woman she is at the end of this series: the one who assures Cal that it’s not too late to be with Mare.
MARE X MAVEN
It’s only fitting that the final showdown between the lightning girl and the fallen king happened during the rage of battle. Though held at the apex of the final showdown between three separate armies, the two somehow found a place of complete solitude to face each other. Maven, poetic till the end, fled to castle Whitfire. Coincidentally, this palace happens to be the place where Maven held her captive for six months, where Maven forced his brother to kill their father, and where Mare and Maven first met.
The showdown begins gradually, with a vengeful Mare stalking towards Maven slowly. Every step filled with regret, Mare knows what she must do; and hates herself for being the one to have to do it. The room they enter is lined with Silent Stone, an element that silences the powers of all who are near.
Stripping away their powers strips away their labels: the masks they hide behind. No longer able to wield fire, Maven is no longer King Maven Calore of Norta. He is nothing more significant than a powerless red. Without her powers, Mare is not Mareena Titanus, she is not the Little Lightning Girl, she is not the symbol of the scarlet guard. She was in that moment what she always has been: Red. Standing in silent stone, we are faced with two people who know they must kill each other, yet wish with all their hearts it hadn’t come to this.
The fight that ensues is bare and bloody, anything but the rehearsed fighting they learned while sparring at the castle. This is hand-to-hand combat, a form of fighting we rarely see in the Red Queen universe. The sole weapon in this fight is a letter opener, the small iron object passed between the two characters before ending in Mare’s hand, who happens to be crushed under Maven’s weight. Much like the other aspects of the book, the fight ends in uncertainty, leaving the audience to wonder who will be the one to emerge victorious.
The answer is not as straightforward as it may seem. We soon find out that, not only is Mare alive, but, unbeknownst to her, she killed Maven. There is no relief in this moment, no celebration of the antagonist’s death. She is told by Cal of her own doing, that she was the one to deliver the fatal blow to the prince they both loved. There is room for speculation, however, for Mare herself states that she will believe the boy is dead upon seeing his body. She is reluctant to assume anything of Maven Calore, and we should be too.
Mare and Cal spend more time apart in this book than together, however, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t given some great marecal moments throughout the novel. When they’re together, they radiate off of each other. When they’re apart, they can’t help but miss the other. And when they’re finally reunited, it feels like nothing had ever gotten in between them in the first place. The very last scene and the epilogue leave the audience in a state of uncertainty, but not a path of no direction. Recovering, Mare is visited by Cal as they share their grief over the death of Maven.
Mare has forever been established as an independent character, forced, but not reluctant, to lead and lead with mercy. The epilogue reminds us all of something that I feel readers often forget: Mare is only eighteen years old. With her life ahead of her, she should be in no rush to do…anything, really. I find this ending to be perfectly fitting of who Mare grew into over the course of five books. Though Cal was an important ally and caring partner, she never relied on him to tell her who she is. Nor did he expect anything of her that she did not want for herself. The final moments are of utmost importance for Mare as a character. Mare and Cal are anything but perfect, and there is much unresolved between the characters. Additionally, they are their own person outside of each other. Mare takes charge over her life, practically ordering Cal to stay behind, no matter how much he believes he sacrificed to be with her. She reminds him that, though he no longer sits on a throne, he has matters to attend to. A fractured kingdom to build into a democracy. He begs her to stay, and Mare does the one thing she owes herself: she steps away. It’s been so long since Mare has been free from any kind of battlefield, whether it be physical or emotional. The best thing she could have done for herself was giving herself time to be someone away from the rage of constant politics and battle. And that’s exactly the path she chose.
However, we are not left without hope. This separation is meant to heal; heal all the fractures that already exist within their relationship. Their last words ring promise; promise of return. And though she tells him not to wait for her, we all know exactly what Tiberias Calore will do: wait. As long as it takes.
The Epilogue serves not only as a reminder for everything Mare has lost, but everything she has maintained, and even gained, as well. We destroy, she thinks to herself, remembering Julian’s words, it is the constant of our kind. She reminds herself of all the destruction, all the horrors she has witnessed. All of the deaths she has suffered.
She remembers they were for a cause, remembers they were for a change.
And, just as easy, her words change. We destroy, she repeats, but we also rebuild.
They returned from the slaughter. So will we.
The final moments in the series are ones of hope. Hope for change, and hope for a brighter future led by those who fought rightfully for it.
It is here, looking out to the sunset, that Mare decides, with no uncertainty, that she will return. Not only that, but she’ll rise. But she will not rise alone.
Though the series finishes off with uncertainty, Victoria Aveyard leaves us in good hands: our own. Over the years, we’ve become so acquainted with these characters that I firmly believe we can confidently follow the path the epilogue has sent our characters on. Because, if there’s anything we’ve learned about Mare Barrow and Tiberias Calore, it is that whatever road they may find themselves on, it will always, without a doubt lead them back to each other.
Agree? Disagree? How did you feel about the conclusion of the Red Queen series? Let us know in the comments!