Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

February 8, 2015

Title: Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Publication date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Orion
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
Rating: 
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Amazon Goodreads TBD
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?
In an alternate universe, I would read Red Queen before I read Red Rising by Pierce Brown, and see if this book still feels like a really long ride of déjà vu.

Mare Barrow is a Red, the menial workers who slave for the Silvers, the super humans with superpowers and actual silver blood (sound familiar till now?) Once they come of age, if Reds are not apprenticed to anyone, they are conscripted and sent to fight an army in the borders of the land. Mare is on the verge of turning 18 and isn't apprenticed, so she's resigned to joining the army just like her three older brothers. But then, enter the childhood best friend who awakens the otherwise dead heroine. When her best friend Kilorn's master dies, and he's just a few days away from turning 18, she decides to smuggle him out of their hometown, the Stilts, as there's no way she's sending him off to die (but die herself? Oh yeah, she's totally cool with that). After a pick pocketing trip, a revolt, and a meeting with a mysterious stranger, Mare finds herself in the royal palace, working as a servant at the Queenstrial, a pageant where princesses vie for the crown prince, Cal's hand in marriage. At the trial, Mare accidentally and very publicly discovers that she herself has superpowers. The royal family helps cover up the fact that a Red is displaying powers, disguise her and quickly get her engaged to the second son, Maven. But there is an underground Red organisation, the Scarlet Guard that is working against the Silvers, and Mare is a perfect position to help them. But can she ride that thin line between conspiracy and disaster?

The saddest thing about this book is that it comes right on the heels of Red Rising and its sequel Golden Son, and since those books are so fresh in our minds, this feels a lot like a recycled version of that. And because the similarity to Red Rising is so glaringly obvious, you also start picking up on similarities to other stories, and from there, it all just went downhill.

For one, it is just so bloody slow. I had to take so many freaking breaks while reading this because it was just so... glacial. It's definitely one of the reasons why I'm a slump right now. There's just so so much of Mare (why Mare, though? Really, I want to know) flirting with Cal, becoming bosom buddies with Maven, trying to be the martyr for her family and Kilorn, and I'm just like "MOVE ON ALREADY, DAMN IT!"

The 'big twists' that this book attempted was just... meh. I saw them coming a mile off. Cal's big reveal as a prince wasn't that huge, first of all, because ... well, that maneuver felt so much like the regurgitated clichéd plot twists that you see in elementary school. And the next big twist would've been so much more of a surprise if the story hadn't kept shoving it down our throats every now and then that 'Anyone can betray anyone." Yeah, I got the point.

Let's come to Mare. Mare... Mare... Mare... Can I just write her name a few times and stop with that? Because honestly, I got nothing. She's one the most boring characters I've ever had the ill fortune of knowing. She's apparently beautiful, because not one, not two, but three guys are salivating over her, she's brave and sacrificing, because she'd do anything to keep her best friend from harm's way, even if he's a big boy who can take care of himself, she's the awkward girl who doesn't know what to say in front of her crush, who is not by the way her betrothed, and oh yeah, she's also Lightning Girl. Blah.

One thing that irked me about Red Queen was how it was so focused on what was happening at the royal palace itself, that we don't get a whole picture of how the rest of the world of Red Queen is. A war between the Silvers and their enemies is happening, but we're not given a whole lot of intel on that. Neither is the slowly burning war between the Reds and the Silvers given much attention to either. There are just flashes of incidents that occur in the conflict between the Scarlet Guard and the palace, and I wish we'd had more of it, since that is what is meant to be the big picture of this whole story. The main plot does have potential, and since this is just the first book, there's still time for this series to redeem itself.

There was, however, one character that I did actually like, and that was the villain. I'm not usually the type of person who likes villains. The Darkling, and the villain from Red Queen are the only exceptions (outside novels, it's Loki and Niklaus Mikaelson). There appears to be a lot of complexity to this character, and a lot of internal conflict, and I'm eager to see how his character develops. We don't really get to know Cal in this book, but from what we do see, it feels like there's a lot to him.The ending hints at more of him in the sequel, so I just might continue this series simply for these two characters.

BOTTOMLINE: Even the title has got half of Red Rising in it!

Jaz @ Fiction in Fiction in Fiction: This is one of the best debuts I’ve ever read and Aveyard has set the benchmark high for 2015 debuts!

Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat: Despite the originality of the Reds vs. Silvers, I don’t feel as if this book stands out in the sea of High Fantasy.

Christine @ A Reader of Fictions: If you find the characters the least compelling, you’ll probably really enjoy it.

HOLDING QUOTE:
"We will rise up, red as the dawn."

"You are Red and Silver, and stronger than both."