Series: Red Queen #1
Published by HarperTeen on February 10th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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.
Red Queen is one of those books that 1) you can enjoy in spite of its utter unoriginality, and 2) can make you look over all the little flaws because it’s a fast-paced YA fantasy full of drama, betrayal, drama, and more drama. When I first read Red Queen, I was glued to the pages. I was aware that Aveyard had been inspired by many already existing YA works and that there was a very problematic love square, but I just couldn’t care. Now that I’ve reflected on this reading experience a little more, I can still say it was enjoyable, but my rating has dropped significantly due to some of the aforementioned issues.
If you’re confused why half of your reader friends have rated this 4 or 5 stars and the other half seems to loathe it with all their being, don’t be. This is one of those your-cup-of-tea-or-not kind of books. Further, there are readers who love a certain concept and seek books with similar aspects, and then there are those who look for distinct, original, and refreshing stories. I usually belong to the latter group. However, Red Queen presents itself as a mixture of multiple YA books – like The Selection, Hunger Games, The Darkest Minds, … – which somehow made it work for me nonetheless.
While the writing style and the world-builiding are average, or rather below even, I thought the characters to be quite fascinating. Mare is an engaging heroine with lots of wit and spark. She believes in her cause and she sees it through (I’ve seen other female main protagonists buckle at this point). She may give off a bit of that special-snowflake vibe, but isn’t there always something special about the main character for them to become the centre of a book to begin with? I need heroines who are brave yet scared, with a fierce heart but a cunning mind, and I found one in Mare Burrow. I also love a good underdog story, and Mare kicks some serious ass.
The two royal brothers are like day and night, and though Aveyard plays with YA clichés, the princes have rather distinct personalities. Cal is all fire and flame, and is the outgoing and popular one, whereas his younger brother Maven pulls the strings obscured by the shadow his brother casts. Of course, this is a cause for some major rivalry and jealousy, and I love reading about troubled sibling dynamics.
I know the burning question you want to ask at this point: Do we get a love triangle? No. If you’re about to sigh with relief, hold that breath. There’s a love square. Of course, Mare’s childhood friend Kilorn could not help but stumble onto the romance stage. While this really pissed me off and was a source of annoyance throughout the book, I appreciated how Aveyard handled the romantic subplot in the end. Actually, Red Queen probably offers the best conclusion to a love
triangle square I have ever seen. View Spoiler »“So you choose him?” “I choose no one.” « Hide Spoiler
I’m a sucker for supernatural abilities and this book was filled with them, most of them being about manipulating elements. The society in Red Queen is divided into Silvers and Reds, with the Silvers having special abilities like manipulating fire or supernatural strength. Mare can manipulate electricity, which quickly earns her the nick name “Little lightning girl” and a fierce female rival at court, and which is why she ends up at the royal palace to begin with. Since only Silvers are supposed to have these abilities, they cannot have a little Red running around shooting lightning from her fingertips. Oh, how I love a good scandal.
Magic, romance, intrigues, and rebellion = Red Queen. This was an enjoyable, action-packed start to a YA fantasy, though unoriginality and a ridiculous romantic subplot dimmed my excitement. This will appeal to anyone who prefers action and a fast pace over rich world-building, beautiful writing, and non-geometrical romances. If you can hold on long enough, a spectacular showdown awaits.