My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes
Series: Red Queen #1
Date Published: February 10th, 2015
Pages: 383 pages
Synopsis: 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…
This is a spoiler-free review.
This book was very difficult for me to rate. I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with it; there were many problems, but also a few aspects that I thought were fantastic. I am always reluctant when it comes to books that have a lot of hype surrounding them, but I decided to take a bit of a risk with Red Queen due to the many positive reviews it has been receiving.
Lately, I have been reading a lot less of this type of novel, as I am finding that it does not appeal to me as much as it did a few years back. I believe this is due not only to the fact that I am now outside the target age range, but also to the repetitive nature of many of the storylines. While I am perfectly fine with some similarities between books and I understand that it is bound to happen, there tends to be a lot of overused tropes in the young adult dystopian genre these days, and I am not a fan of many of them.
In my opinion, the plot of Red Queen started out very promising and pulled me in right away. Aveyard does a wonderful job of conjuring up a vision of the world and showing the stark contrast between the living situations of the Reds and the Silvers. She also clearly shows the social divide and the unfair and inhumane treatment of the Reds. The concept of the Silvers is fascinating; the idea of their powers is enthralling, and I truly enjoyed all the scenes where these powers were demonstrated. I do wish that there had been a bit more of a focus on those abilities and the history of the Silvers, but I am hoping this will be shown in more depth in the future books.
While the setting and concept of the novel are both fairly strong, the actual plotline does not do either of them justice. There is a world of people where the color of their blood determines their lot in life. A world of disunion and unrest, and a rebellion springing up to work toward gaining proper rights for the downtrodden. A world entirely human, but ruled by those with superhuman abilities, acting as merciless gods. There is so much to be explored, and yet the main focus is not on any of these topics. Instead of focusing on the structure of the society or the political intrigue and deception, there is far too much emphasis put on more trivial matters. I believe this is primarily due to the fact that it is written using first person narration.
I genuinely believe that I would have liked this book a lot more if it had been told in third person. One of the main reasons that I had trouble connecting with the story was due to the fact that I only liked a handful of the characters, many of whom did not play large roles in the plot. Most importantly, I did not like the main character, Mare.
I frequently found myself becoming irritated with the things she did, such as the way she treated other people and how she handles the situation she is in. She seemed to lack sympathy for others, even her own family members, and tended to always put herself first. Mare does occasionally worry about the safety of her family, but it never feels truly genuine because she spends much of her time feeling sorry for herself.
She has been thrust into a difficult and very dangerous situation, essentially becoming a pawn to the Silvers, and has every reason to feel discouraged. However, Mare unfortunately lacks the maturity that makes a strong heroine, and spends far too much time indulging in self-pity. It is nice to see a character overcome some of those negative thoughts and forge ahead to protect themselves and their family, and I did not think that there was enough of this demonstrated here. I do hope to see her character mature and strengthen as the series progresses.
There is also too much focus on romance, specifically one that is rather weak, and a bully, both of which seem as if they have been forced into the plot. This novel does involve a bit of a love triangle, something that I tend to not be a huge fan of. However, Mare’s main love interest is Prince Cal. While I did like Cal as a character, I felt that their romance was a bit rushed and did not feel as if it was happening naturally. Likewise, I also felt that the antagonistic relationship between Mare and the bully character, Evangeline, was too suddenly intense, and that Evangeline was a very cliché “mean girl”. Both of these storylines ended up being very formulaic and therefore did not capture my attention.
Between her self-centered attitude and her fixation on Cal, I quickly became tired of being in Mare’s head and hearing her thoughts. I frequently wished that I could pull away from things slightly and observe this story playing out from a third person perspective. Though it had the potential to be a very complex and unique plot, it falls victim to many clichéd tropes and loses a lot of possible seriousness and maturity. It ends up becoming more of a sophomoric story that focuses too heavily on things like mean girls and love triangles.
While I disliked the above aspects, there was one main part of the narrative that I completely loved: the writing style. When reading about Victoria Aveyard, I learned that she has a degree in screenwriting, and her talent in that area comes through very clearly in her writing. Aveyard’s descriptions are vivid, captivating, and absolutely spot-on. The entire way through the novel, I could clearly see everything playing out in my mind, and she built a fascinating world. One recurring thought I had was about what a good movie this would make and, in fact, I think this may have come across better in a cinematic format. Her writing flows beautifully, and that is what truly carried me through the novel.
Overall, I would have to say that I was not a fan of this novel. However, I am extremely interested in reading more of Victoria Aveyard’s writing, and for that reason, I think that I may give the sequel, The Glass Sword, a try. Since first books in series tend to have a lot of set up for future stories, I would be intrigued to see if I have a more enjoyable time with the next part. I would also like to see if Mare matures and becomes a stronger heroine. I am still glad that I gave it a try, and would also recommend giving it a go if you have been debating whether or not to. It did not click with me and I think it is a hit or miss kind of story, but I can definitely see why this novel has gotten many glowing reviews.