Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #1
Genre: Dystopia, Fantasy, Young Adult
Published: February 10th 2015 by HarperTeen
Rating: 4/5 stars ★★★★
“Words can lie. See beyond them.”
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.
4 of 5 stars to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
It’s difficult reading popular books that have been around for a whileㅡthe expectation is just massive. Every time I visit a bookstore, I see Red Queen on a prime spot, regally displayed like her namesake. Being a bookworm that I am, it effectively captured my interest the first time I saw it; the year was 2016 if I remember correctly and the cover was nothing short of intriguing, impactful in its minimalism. I checked the book blurb and read it was about “monarchy” and like a windblown candle, my interest died quick. I do not like monarchy. I don’t know why but it was never a genre of priority. At the time, I was more into sci-fi; devouring the likes of Starbound and Illuminae Files. So I moved on and never bothered with it even when the hype around it continued to grow.
Fast forward to now. I’ve read almost all the popular YA fantasy novels that are NOT centered on monarchy. I’ve run out of books to read. I decided to branch out. Started with The Cruel Prince that my good friend asked me to buddy read with her. It was entertaining and I thought, “Maybe monarchy’s not that bad.” And then news of Grishaverse being adapted into a Netflix series broke. It’s almost like fate pushing me to check this genre out. “Why is it so popular anyway?” was a curious question I want answered. And so I read it. I enjoyed the books for the most part but I wasn’t very impressed. However, I understand the allure of monarchy: secret heir, hidden identities, oust plots, with love triangle romance thrown in the mix; it’s all very dramatic BUT I feel the stories are essentially the same just with different characters and different authors. Red Queen included.
Maybe if I read Red Queen at the time of its release I would feel different but that’s neither here nor there so let’s move on to the point: Red Queen felt like a mix of Hunger Games and Shadow and Bone. There wasn’t enough originality in it to fascinate me, to impress me. Hunger Games for the Dystopian setting: poverty, segregation of classes, battle tournaments. Shadow and Bone for the fantasy and monarchy aspect: characters possessing powers/superhuman abilities in a government run by royals. The book didn’t meet my ‘massive’ expectations so to speak.
With all this in mind, Red Queen should’ve been an “okay” read but as I was writing this review and digesting the plots and characters, I realized it was a good experience over all and that ultimately changed my rating to 4. I also felt that the last few chapters especially the epilogue more than made up for all the times I thought the book was bland.
(SPOILERS START BELOW)
Red Queen heavily resembles Shadow and Bone’s character templates too. Mare is just like Alina. They both didn’t know they had powers until a life and death situation happened; and both also fell in a love triangle confusion while being used as pawn in a grand royal scheme. Very “special” girls.
Then we have Maven who is very much like the Darkling in SAB. Poor childhood made them greedy, deranged bastards. Sympathetic antagonists.
Lastly we have Kilorn who is very much like Mal. Childhood best friend of the special girl. Only they have different fates. Kilorn’s love is unrequited. Poor guy. It makes me sad when nice guys don’t get the girls although to be fair, Kilorn’s nice but he’s pretty useless in the first quarter of the book.
But we have a deviant in Cal. He’s got no SAB equivalent. Of course there are plenty other characters in RQ and SAB both that do not have equivalents, further differentiating the two books from each other, but Cal is a key character that I thought deserved a mention.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Red Queen properly. The writing wasn’t stellar but it also wasn’t boring. I enjoyed reading it but at the same time, I wasn’t very excited to continue. It didn’t spark that reading fever.
However, it had better written characters compared to Shadow and Bone. Let’s start with our Red Queen Mare who didn’t realize she had powers until she was confronted with it (quite literally). She came off as weak to me but I was okay with that, happy for it even, because it’s so rare for YA Fantasy books to feature heroines like this. Nowadays they’re all so edgy and kickassㅡand I love that tooㅡbut it’s refreshing to read something else every now and then.
Mare showed realistic character growth even if it meant watching her make mistakes after mistakes. I wanted to clock her on the head so many times. Maven was clearly toying with her and she was so putty in his hands until the very end. She was given so many hints about him but she was blind! And then she kept blaming Cal for everything even when it’s her fault. But, however frustrated I got with her, I forgive it because I understood (probably except for the blaming Cal part that was unwarranted). She’s but a poor Red, inexperienced in matters of mind games, of royal maneuvering. She can’t be expected to discern these things right out. She had to learn. Actually props to the author for not half-assing this character development. It’s such big risk to write a not-so-flawless heroine. It’s a wonder why so many guys have a thing for her. First time to read a heroine with this much prominent admirers (three).
Moving on to the princes. I can’t for the life of me get why Mare is so quick to spite Cal for his principles. Cal literally risked his neck for her so many times. Cal has shown her goodness but she still doubts him. Cal is clearly only doing his duty as a crown prince and has gone out of his way to ensure no one is hurt unnecessarily (example: Julian’s case. Cal helps him escape but Mare has the nerve to get mad at him for “allowing Julian to get killed”. In the first place, it’s Mare’s fault for involving Julian in her schemes. So many other instances aside from this but it would take too long). Cal may be a weak prince but he’s an honorable soldier. He has his faults, yes, but Mare is in no position to call him out when she too has been guilty of the same.
Meanwhile, it wasn’t until the shooting that I was convinced Maven was two-faced. Early on, Julian gave hints about him being “his mother’s son” and that alone was warning enough but it was in the shooting that I became sure. How? When Mare started asking him about the bomb, Maven was all assurance that it was an accident but there was no proof of this so it’s hard to trust his words especially when he was yet to show any outward kindness. Compared to Cal who already proved his character by SHOWING that he cared about the ordinary folk when he gave Mareㅡa strangerㅡa job at the palace, Maven was indeed shady. His “alliance” to the Scarlet Guard notwithstanding because again, he only used words to prove “loyalty” and they readily believed him. Their fault.
And then we have the minor characters that despite their short scenes were able to make a mark, their personalities clearly shining through. Gisa is the breadwinner that suffered a terrible fate but never blamed anyone. She’s younger but she’s wiser and stronger than her older sister Mare. We have Kilorn, the jealous, lovestruck fool who’d put himself in danger just to prove he’s the better man. Not that Mare noticed. Elara, a villain through and through; and Julian, wise but a coward. The author did a great job in this aspect.
As a final thought, I’d say my Red Queen experience is better than Shadow and Bone… so far. It’s shaping to be a better series too if the epilogue was to be considered. Right now, I’m excited to continue with Glass Sword, hoping against hope it doesn’t disappoint me.
**moodboard template mine; photos used in moodboard not all mine, credit to owners