Friday, August 26, 2016

RED QUEEN: A REVIEW

Red Queen (Red Queen #1)
Written by: Victoria Aveyard
Hardcover: 383 pages
Publisher: Harper Teen
Language: English
February 2015
Genre: Fantasy/Dystopia/Young Adult/Series

This is 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.

That is, until she finds herself 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 of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring 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 Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.


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“The truth is what I make it. I could set this world on fire and call it rain.” I have been reading a lot more young adult novels of late and for good reason. There have been some excellent offerings in the past couple of years. They also tend to have some sublime cover art. I will admit that I first picked up Red Queen because of the cover. How could I not? It really is gorgeous in its simplicity and made me want to read more.

While the premise of the book may be similar to other stories I had heard a lot about the book. I mean Red Queen was everywhere. People raved as they did Throne of Glass and Leigh Bardugo’s Tales of the Grisha series. I liked those so I picked this one up.

There are two kinds of people – Reds and Silvers. The Silvers are the ruling class, their silver blood giving them special abilities such as pyrokinesis or the ability to control metals. They live in absolute power and a good lot of them think themselves Gods over the lowly Reds. The Reds are the labor class. Most live in poverty and long for a freedom they might never get.

Mare Barrow is a Red as are her friends and family. She is also running out of time. As a Red when she turns eighteen she will be conscripted to the army just like her brothers. With no apprenticeship to pardon her, she pickpockets to try and support her family. When her best friend Kilorn loses his apprenticeship, Mare thinks that everything is lost. Until one night she meets a stranger who says he can get her a job inside the Silver Palace. With this job she could save her family, her best friend, and maybe even herself.

When her powers manifest in front of the Silver Court, Mare’s life will never be the same. Mare is an impossibility, an anomaly. The Silver King realizes he cannot kill a ‘Silver’ in front of his nobles, but he also cannot tell them that a Red has the powers of a Silver. It would give the Reds hope. It would fuel the Scarlet Guard. Ultimately it would make his kingdom weak and there are other players just waiting for a sign of weakness.

In order to control her and discover more about her abilities the Silver Queen and King disguise her as a lost Silver. Now that the lost Silver girl has been found after being brought up by Reds her entire life, she will wed the younger prince Maven for her parents noble sacrifice. Living a lie Mare finds herself dropped into a very dangerous game of revolution, power, and thrones. Will she survive?

Things I liked: Yep it is a story about a young, poor girl who discovers that she is a special snowflake. Yep, we’ve read it before and probably many, many times. And yet I kept reading. Even if it is an often told story, I like it. I found myself liking Mare. She is reckless and flawed, but also incredibly brave. I liked her snark. She is unpredictable like the electricity that hums in her veins. She acts without thinking and because of this there are consequences. Real consequences. Despite this, she sometimes comes off as the damsel in distress. A lot. A bit too much really. At least until the latter half of the book which is a shame because I felt like she started off rather strong. However, things picked up in the latter half of the book. Mare became a stronger character, the final arena battle was awesome, and I looked forward to reading more.

I really wanted to like the characters, as cookie cutter as some of them may have been (The evil Queen -Stepmother of course, the wise tutor who becomes mentor and friend, and the two different princes.) Cal believes in the hierarchy, believes that once he is King he can somehow make it all better. He knows that change needs to occur. And Maven, forever living in his brother’s shadow garnered some sympathy. He was quiet and unsure, knew his place. How could I not like him.

I like the premise even if it is one we have read a hundred times over. I enjoyed the political themes, the rebellion and the revolution, the fact that when there is revolution even the innocent are often destroyed. And whoo hoo for the surprise dystopia for me. I didn’t really get it until almost halfway through and in some ways reminded me of Shannara, but maybe that is because the Rogue and I just finished watching that on Netflix.

I was happy to see some gender equality. Yay. Both Red boys and girls are conscripted to the Silver army just as both genders of the Silvers are trained to develop their abilities. Sure the whole vying for the Crown Prince parade of noble ladies is a bit annoying. Meh.

The pacing was quick, so despite some flaws it was a quick and fairly enjoyable read. I of course wanted more, but I think I had enough to read the next book in the series.

Things I didn’t like so much: “You want me to pin my entire operation, the entire revolution on some teenaged love story? I can't believe this.” Yeah, please don’t. There isn’t one really. But there is a love triangle, because of course there is. Actually it might be a love square. Love squares are dumb (looking at you Season Three of BSG). I didn’t like any of the love interests. Too many choices, not enough depth to any of them. Instead it just came off like Mare is loved by all men because of her special snowflake status and heated by all women.

Speaking of bitchy ladies…why is that? Guys don’t hate each other on sight when they might be potential rivals or at least they are not written that way or portrayed that way most of the time. However, we ladies are just horrible to one another. Seriously I think the only ladies that like Mare are her family. Evangeline could have been such a more interesting character had she not been the bitchy bitca from the moment she laid eyes on Mare. Why is Mare hated so much? Or is it just perceived hatred because Mare feels so alien? Either way it induced some eye rolling. It made Mare a cliché.

I also have question about disguising Mare as a Silver. You can’t look at someone and automatically know if they are Silver or Red. It is all in the blood. Let’s face it every Silver would want to see her bleed. If you are playing the throne game and suddenly a new player shows up on the game board, you would poke until you found weaknesses. Or maybe that is just what I would do. Because I am evil?

It’s a book that took so long for something to happen. I knew there would be a gut wrench or a betrayal. I kept feverishly reading, hoping there would be something. Anything. There wasn’t enough conflict or at least any real conflict. It all felt too easy, which it shouldn’t as there were real stakes involved. After all a revolution is brewing not to mention the whole courtly intrigue. I felt slightly detached through a good portion and yet I didn’t stop reading. So I suppose that is something.

Buy or Borrow: Buy. Despite my gripes, I still enjoyed it and will be keeping it on my shelves.

Part of: Series
Red Queen (Book One)
Glass Sword (Book Two)
Kings Cage (Book Three) 2017

Also Recommended: I would give the Throne of Glass series a try by Sarah J Maas or Maas’ other series the Court of Thorns and Roses. You might also like Graceling by Kristin Cashore.


2.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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