Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #1
Genre: Teen Dystopian
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
The Overview: 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 …
If I’d stopped reading Red Queen about a third of the way in, my rating would’ve been close to five stars and my review would’ve been praises out the wazoo – I loved the concept, the setting, the organic relationships, and the trajectory of the story. However, in the pages that followed, I found myself becoming increasingly disengaged with the story until it was honestly a struggle to finish. O_o what happened?! Loads of people LOVED this book, which made me wonder what was wrong with me and had me earnestly considering the possibility that I’m burnt out on YA. Okay, I know that’s a bit mellow-dramatic, but seriously, this is not the first time I’ve lost patience with a YA book/series that the blogosphere was going apeshit over (Throne of Glass #3 & The Winner’s Crime, to name a couple). Although I have read a handful of teen books I absolutely loved over the last couple of years, it is clear that the more I read, the higher my expectations become.
My desire for this review is not to bash the book, by any means – I know a ton of people are going to really love it – but I feel the strong need to analyze exactly why the last two thirds of the book just didn’t work for me. Here goes:
There was one circumstance surrounding my reading experience that helps shed light on my opinions of Red Queen: I had just finished the most recent book in the Game of Thrones series (A Dance with Dragons). I’d had 1100+ pages to get use to expansive world building, complex and widespread conflicts, and (most notably) a memorable cast of shrewd royals who always demonstrated clear motive, direction and, even more importantly, a fierce protectiveness over their children – heirs to the thrones representing the pivotal futures for each family. Switch gears to Red Queen, it really bothered me how casual the decision-making of the royals was (lacking any clear motive that I could see at the time) and how seemingly illogical that decision-making manifested in regards to the heirs. Some motives became clearer as the story went on, but unfortunately that did nothing to alleviate all the frustration I felt early on, it just slapped a Band-Aid on after my patience had long since bled out.
Recognizing motives and getting a clear sense of character early on is really important to me, and there were parts that were done brilliantly (like with Mare’s family) and parts that left me wanting (enter the royals, where it felt almost as if the author assigned them certain M.O.s early on, only to change her mind halfway through the story and start over).
I also really liked the main character at first, finding her lack of ambition and skills oddly interesting in a market where the heroines always seem to be adept at EVERYTHING. But when the story needed her to be clever, putting her in a position where she could really manipulate gameboard and affect change, she contented herself with incessantly complaining that things were unfair without EVER presenting an idea to help make it better. I found it insufferable. I mean, offer a solution or shut up – you’re not helping the problem. My trending thought was – the royals are sure lucky she wasn’t a bit more clever or autonomous, else the entire plot would have crumbled. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe her personal story arc will be that she finally figures out how to stop being a pawn and start moving the chess pieces herself. That would be great, I just don’t think I have the patience to keep reading long enough to see her get there.
Overall, how much I loved the first part of the book balances out with how much I didn’t love the rest. There were a ton of awesome story elements that just didn’t quite all come together for me. I doubt many other readers would be nearly as critical as I was, and will probably recommend this one a fair amount despite my own personal reservations. It has many elements that account for its popularity and I am (as usual of late) in the minority.
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Oh no! I’m so sad to hear you didn’t like this one. I really enjoyed it but I can see why people would not like it so much. I read this one just before I got really into High Fantasy YA so it was a good one to start with. Since then, I’ve read a lot more complex stories so I can see why after reading GOT this one would fizzle.
But you are not alone! I would say this was a book that was 50/50 in terms of like or love with the other reviews I’ve read.
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I’m sad too!! I actually feel GUILTY that I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to. You make a good point – It would make a great introductory book to the genre. I really think if I’d read it at a different time I would’ve liked it more. That said, i know my favorite book of the teen fantasy genre (girl of fire and thorns) also got really mixed reviews, and I’m over here like “you are all crazy – this book is amazing!” Haha. To each his own I guess. Still, I loved the beginning…
And you’re so kind to tell me that – the only reviews I’ve seen have been all love, so you really helped me feel not so delusional haha.
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Great review, Niki! I just received this book for Christmas so I look forward to seeing if my thoughts match yours – they probably will. It wasn’t a book I particularly planned on picking up because it was marketed like crazy, everyone got excited about it and then were then disappointed when it was unoriginal and nothing special.
Your point comparing it to GoT really struck a chord with me, I’ve been struggling with something similar lately. I’ve found fantasy authors I’ve loved for ages aren’t quite hitting the mark since reading GoT. Like you, they can seem so surface level in comparison!
Thank you Becky mission point I am superduper curious to see what you think of this book – I’m really hoping you’ll tell me that I’ve been a bit too harsh. I really didn’t mind the lack of originality because it reminded me of a lot of other books in the genre that I liked, and that resonance was actually part of its appeal.
And Right?! Who knew there would be a downside to reading amazing books, haha. I find I’m liking a lot of titles, but very few these days strike a WOW cord. It really was unfortunate timing for this one… I mean, I hadn’t even really given myself breathing room after GoT to finish taking it in before I dived into this one, so it was still strongly at the forefront of my thoughts. In any case, I hope your experience with it is overall a lot better! :-)