Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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 …

The Review:

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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