on February 12th 2015
Format: ARC (383 pages) • Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?
Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
Where do I even begin with you, Red Queen?! Let me start by saying for the millionth time that it’s pretty cool that the author’s hometown is right next to mine and that we have a mutual friend I went to college with. Okay, moving on.
I think this one is mostly tough to review for one major reason: it took a lot of power to stay engaged for most of the book. I found that I would get distracted after only reading a few pages. I’m okay with a series-starter that’s focused on world-building, as long as it keeps me interested. I don’t need a lot of action (until the end, that’s when I NEED it) to keep me going most of the time. This wasn’t really the case here, BUT I enjoyed it. Weird, right? It couldn’t hold my attention for more than a few pages at a time but it was really interesting. I needed to know what was going to happen but I couldn’t just get going with it. There’s a good chance I was having some fantasy-related burnout for this book, if I’m being honest. I took a break part of the way through to read a quick contemporary and it re-engerized me.
The characters were also a bit MEH for me. Mare was kind of boring. She didn’t feel like a strong badass lady, which is how I like my fantasies. I couldn’t exactly connect with her for some reason. I’m not saying she was bad or it ruined the book or anything, but she just didn’t seem like she had a lot going on for her. Her whole existence was based on her family’s well-being and how she compared to them. She wasn’t really her own person. The beginning of the book featured her being a thief, but she didn’t really use any of those skills later at all. So is that her personality, or no? THEN, of course, she ends up in a weird love…square? Kind of? But not really? Basically there’s the Prince she ends up betrothed to, Maven, who she kind of likes sometimes and partners up with for most of the book. Then, there’s his brother, Cal, who is the heir to the throne. They had some weird almost insta-love relationship that made me roll my eyes at certain parts towards the end. There just wasn’t enough development of that relationship for me to believe it. And then, obviously, you have the childhood best friend (Kilorn) who pops up sometimes. She’s trying to protect him but they feel more like brother-sister to me. Who knows?
Because the book was constantly saying ANYONE CAN BETRAY ANYONE every three freaking pages, you get the impression that, um, someone is going to betray Mare. BUT WHO? Well, I figured out who. Pretty quickly. But hey, maybe you won’t. And honestly, that didn’t bother me that much. That whole scene was pretty damn sweet.
This may all sound ranty, but the last 100 pages of this book made it all worth it. Totally. (And I’m not saying you won’t enjoy the other 300 pages, because you will! It’s just not nearly as engrossing as the ending.) When the twists and betrayals started coming, I couldn’t stop reading. I kept wondering howww are they going to get out of this mess?! I think some of the stuff towards the end – really the only thing I had an issue with – was the naivety of some of their plan. View Spoiler »Mare really thought that a rebellion wouldn’t lead the Silvers to just be like “bye we’re gonna kill everyone now.” ?? « Hide Spoiler And now I NEED the next book. I don’t want to wait. There’s such a great setup for what’s to come. View Spoiler »I really hope it consists of them travelling and trying to track down people with special powers. « Hide Spoiler I also LOVEDDDD one of the twists at the very end, even though I also kind of saw it coming.
My favorite thing about Red Queen was the writing. I’m not sure why. Aveyard totally has some skills. The style felt unique/different at first but I got used to it. I just loved it. People were turned off by the use of italics a lot, but a) it didn’t really bug me and b) didn’t happen as often as people made it seem. It was just a helpful way to see Mare’s literal thoughts vs. her narration of what’s happening. I loved her comparison of Cal and Maven as a fire needing its shadow.
Most people complained that it was too similar to other books (The Selection, The Hunger Games, Graceling, Divergent) but I never read most of the books. Just Hunger Games. Sure, some parts felt similar – but nothing to turn me away. There are some elements of fantasies and dystopias that just kind of get carried throughout books. No biggie for me, like I said, because I didn’t read the books it’s being compared to.
Sorry my thoughts kind of went everywhere but there has never been a more difficult book to rate! Overall:
PROS = writing, ending, feeling of mistrust of all the characters, world-building, actual plot idea/storyline, definitely NEED the second book
CONS = characterization, slow-going plot most of the time, lack of real action until the end, formulaic/kind of similar to many popular books